Best Books On Family Businesses

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Did you know that at least half of all American companies are family businesses? And family-controlled firms comprise 19 percent of the companies in the Fortune Global 500, according to recent research by McKinsey & Company, a global consulting firm.

However, the familiar phrase “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations” applies more than ever to today’s family businesses. Statistics reveal that fewer than one third of these businesses survive the transition from first to second generation ownership, and another half of them do not survive the switch from second to third generation.

Books that offer tips and guidance for family businesses

In addition to the challenges all businesses face, family businesses can be particularly vulnerable to change. Some family firms may be stuck in the past when their founders decide to retire. Some young adults set to inherit the family business desire more flexibility and freedom than their parents’ or grandparents’ businesses may offer.

Plus, despite the best of intentions, family businesses all involve the challenges of dealing with family members. If you are running a family business, working with a family business or considering doing either of those options, it would serve you well to get some advice for others who have been in your place. Here is our round-up of books that offer tips and guidance for family businesses.

  1. Books on family businesses – Generation to Generation: Life Cycles of the Family Business by Kelin E. Gersick and John A. Davis (1997)

The authors spent a decade researching and interviewing a variety of family businesses and used this information to create a comprehensive, yet easy to read guide. You will learn how to resolve conflicts with family members as well as tips for goal-setting, development and succession.

Favorite quote: “Verbal and nonverbal communication can be greatly speeded up in families. Owner-managers can decide to solve a problem ‘like we did it with Uncle Harry.’ Spouses and siblings are more likely to understand each other’s spoken preferences and hidden strengths and weaknesses. Most important, commitment, even to the point of self-sacrifice, can be asked for in the name of general family welfare. However, this same intimacy can also work against the professionalism of executive behavior. Lifelong histories and family dynamics can intrude in business relationships.”

  1. Books on family businesses – When Family Businesses are Best: The Parallel Planning Process for Family Harmony and Business Success by Randel S. Carlock and John L. Ward (2010)

This book stresses planning and forethought when it comes to running a family firm. The authors, who are educators and consultants, include practical tools and examples and break steps down into series of steps and best practices. The book captures what it means to be part of a family business – both the good aspects and the challenges – and zeroes in on the need for better communication.

Favorite quote: “While all companies can improve their business thinking, unaddressed family issues – such as fairness, the boundaries between roles, shared decision-making, and protecting relationships – are often an obstacle to business growth and continuity.”

  1. Books on family businesses – The Little Red Book of Family Business by David Bork (2008)

This is the kind of book you can read and re-read at different times of your business life. The slim volume, written by an experienced family business consultant, offers common sense tips that help you understand you are not the only one facing these issues with your family.

Favorite quote: “If the family ownership is used in marketing, then it is important for all family members to practice the values the family claims to have.”

  1. Books on family businesses – Family Legacy and Leadership by Mark Daniell and Sara Hamilton (2010)

Certainly not all families with family businesses are wealthy, but if yours is, you have another complicated layer to your business and to your business leadership. This book addresses the following key issue for maintaining your family legacy: family organization, communication, the roles of patriarchs and matriarchs, preparing children for inheritance of family wealth, protecting family wealth, and other sensitive issues.

Favorite quote: “One of the greatest challenges that financial families face together is perpetuating the passion and drive that created the family business and legacy. It is ironic that a successful business generates wealth and makes a family comfortable, and that this comfort often engenders complacency in future generations.”

  1. Books on family businesses – Inside the Multi-Generational Family Business by Mark T. Green (2011)

Author Mark Green discusses what he terms “generational stack-up” or the problems that occur when several generations of owners and managers combine bring their own approach to money and business. Unfortunately the result can be chaos. Green, a family business consultant, offers steps and advice for addressing these different approaches and using them to collaborate rather than to have conflict.

Favorite quote: “Aging GI generation, born from 1905 to 1924 and silent generation family members cling to CEO positions and old-fashioned status quo thing while their Boomer children deny the very possibility of retirement. Gen X parents “helicopter” around their Gen Y children, doing everything for them, then get frustrated when Millennials show little ambition, independence, or skill regarding the family business.”

  1. Books on family businesses – Family Business, Risky Business by David Bork (1993)

As a consultant to more than 200 family businesses, author David Bork had had a good look at the unique pressures and problems family businesses face. In this book, he discusses strategies to surmount sibling rivalries, clashes over values, drug and alcohol abuse and in-law problems. He also stresses the need for a “family system” that incorporates values and traditions and includes a workable succession plan.

Favorite quote: “Once good communication is established among family members, problems can be solved. After all, every problem has a solution in its other side. The satisfaction that comes from solving problems together is a strong step in binding the family together.”

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