In the previous post, we explored the surprising and remarkable facts about some of the longest living businesses in the world.
The insights we gain from Japan’s family businesses suggest that we have a better chance to create a business that lasts by establishing a business environment/structure that resembles a family model. In this way, we harness the benefits of both models; the longevity of the family business model and the freedom of the non-family business model that elects its own leaders based on the required qualities beyond a family tie.
Today, we are going to look at how we can actually create a family like businesses to take advantage of this insight.
The secret of family-run businesses
Here are some secrets of thriving family businesses:
Trust is everything.
People trust each other more naturally in family businesses. This helps them achieve great feats even in difficult times.
They also care as much about the relationships with their suppliers and customers as their own business. Because the aim of the business is to last for a long time for their descendants, so taking care of their social ties becomes more than just important.
Everyone in the business understands that trust is the most valuable asset a business can and must have. Every customer and connection must be treated with absolute care and respect. Creating trust becomes ingrained in the shared mission among all family members.
Everyone feels rewarded by working toward a collective goal.
In great family businesses, all members care about how to be of the greatest service to the business by contributing more to grow the reputation together and to create long-term sustainability. They are not thinking about exchanging their time for money.
When anyone in the family is sick or disabled, taking care of that person becomes the shared responsibility of the family and the business too. It means that there is an inherent sense of security and belonging in the business environment.
And they celebrate their wins together without trying to get credit for their own individual effort and achievement.
The power of giving back is never neglected.
In family businesses, people understand and share the same moral values. Therefore, contributing to the community they belong to is a critical responsibility for them.
They realize that all their successes are made possible by the social ties and natural environment to which they belong and giving back is more than their responsibility.
Just like traditional farmers, they know the importance of taking care of the soil of their land to receive abundant harvest.
These secrets reveal that family businesses are fundamentally driven by the wisdom they have cultivated. They think of the long-term consequences of their actions today regarding the gift they leave for their descendants beyond many generations.
As special as they may seem, the characteristics that make great family businesses are simply practical ways of thinking that create greater, lasting success.
Any business can adopt this way of thinking even if they are not family-run businesses. The question you might have is, “How do we do that in our business while still making money?”
Here’s the answer: we just need to think like a family.
Thinking like a family
Mother Teresa once said, “The problem with the world is that we draw our family circle too small.”
To many, ‘family’ means those people with whom we have blood ties.
But it also includes the people our direct relatives are married to. Sometimes we can adopt children, or choose to have family pets. And family ties can be formed through agreements and choices too.
Also, consider this: these days, most people spend more time with their colleagues than with their families. Therefore, how people feel being surrounded by the people they work with has a significant influence on the happiness level of these individuals.
It’s common sense that having happy employees has a significant impact on the bottom-line of the company, so it’s astonishing that many businesses today still make hiring choices without considering whether the new hire really fits in with the culture of the company. Productivity is often valued more than the emotional and energetic contribution of employees, and far less attention is given to making the team feel connected.
Now, of course, non-family businesses have a significant advantage over family businesses in one aspect. They don’t need to worry about the challenges that many family businesses have; the lack of real talent within the available candidates. If only family members are permitted to fulfill the management (or other skilled) roles and assume the ownership, what happens when no one in the family is suited for these positions? A family business, no matter how great it has been, can clearly fail when they do not find the right successors.
Commercial enterprises have a great advantage in this area because they can recruit more people with real talent and promote the right people to critical leadership positions.
There is no shortage of talent in the talent pool beyond the family. And you can even headhunt talented people from other high-performing companies.
But the most challenging part of all is to find the right people AND to establish trusting, growth-focused long-term relationships with them.
And that challenge itself is huge.
Consider, for example, what happened when Forbes Magazine interviewed the CEOs of top performing companies about the major challenges their companies faced. They found that most common challenge cited was “attracting the right talents” and “building the highest-performing teams”.[i]
So, can we learn from the thriving family businesses to attract and retain great talent and loyalty? More insights can be found on my book GIVING BUSINESS.