Keeping it in the family

The importance of family businesses to the global economy is undeniable. According to the European Commission, they account for more than 60% of all companies in Europe and the Americas and about 50% of employment. But for many, succession planning can be a cause of anxiety, and there are many misconceptions around what is involved.

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Family employment guidelines are a sweet spot for Purdys Chocolatier

When it comes to buying quality chocolate in Vancouver, one brand stands out: Purdys, a family business that’s supplied chocolate to British Columbia’s most discerning residents and visitors since 1907.

Karen Flavelle, who is Purdys’ owner and is often cited as one of Canada’s best known businesswomen, was the winner of EY’s 2013 Family Business Award of Excellence. Here’s what she has to say about Purdys’ — and her own — success.

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Akbar Seikh: A risk taker and an opportunity seeker

A risk-taker and an opportunity seeker, 25-year-old Akbar Sheikh, Managing Director of Sheikh Holdings, won the first ever EY NextGen Club Award for his outstanding work in the UK real estate market. In 2011, he decided to set up a family office, while also forming a real estate and private equity division under Sheikh Holdings, the company that represents the Sheikh family’s business activities. With this new division, he delivered a residential scheme that was not only profitable, but that also had a substantial positive impact on the local community. And this makes him a truly inspirational figure for all young NextGen members, and the perfect choice for the NextGen Club Award.

To find out more about EY’s NextGen Club click here.

Faber-Castell: Making ordinary things, extraordinarily well

When Count Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell took up his inheritance of the world’s largest pencil empire in 1978, he became the eighth generation of a highly successful entrepreneurial dynasty. Initially, the former investment banker felt little desire to take on the task. But then he got down to the job with growing interest, using his entrepreneurial acumen to create a premium global brand that is now represented in more than 100 countries — with a range comprising more than 2,000 writing, drawing and creative design products for children, artists, professionals and lovers of high-quality writing implements. Throughout, he has been guided by the values of his ancestors.

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Family businesses letting go

I’ve developed the concepts of “control from the grave” and the “ghost on the wall” in family businesses in my two earlier blogs.

In this final blog, I want to look at a case where this control takes the form of letting go. This is about new leaders being able to make decisions and take actions the previous generation may not have been able to.

To illustrate this, I’d like to use the example of the Johnson family. John Johnson and his wife Eunice founded Johnson Publishing in 1942 to bring to market Ebony and Jet, among the first magazines targeted at African-Americans.

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The “ghost on the wall” theory of family control

Last week my last blog introduced the idea of “control from the grave” in family businesses and examined how it can exert such a powerful force. I want to explore this theme further and look at control that’s implicit and has more to do with influence – I call this my “ghost on the wall” theory.

This time, I want to use the example of the Crown family business. Material Service Corporation was started by 23-year-old Henry Crown after World War I with a loan of US$10,000.

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A grave matter for family businesses

Family business founders often want their ideas to last for generations. Indeed, the legacies of some leaders are so strong that they end up controlling their companies from beyond the grave. Such a strong legacy can have benefits, but it can also have truly terrible consequences. Continue reading