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