It is fashionable (and easy) to target family run businesses as the source of a country’s problems. Whether it is the Economist’s view of a region or the complaints of a middle manager who “just couldn’t get a promotion in there”. I have studied family businesses as clients, as numbers and statistics. I have lived and breathed one for most of my life. And after enough years away from it now I can finally see the upside more clearly.
The term “family business” is completely useless. The realization came crashing down on me as I got more comfortable with “Hidden Champions” (Simon Kucher) . Even the Economist will take note. After admiring the mid sized companies that are driving Germany’s worldwide export leadership, it takes some getting used to. 66% of these dynamic world leaders are family run. Sure that is down 10% from what it was ten years ago. Which is my point. Not even a German family remains unchanged.
Not all families are the same. So family businesses will also be pretty different. Kucher identifies factors unique to these winners like the drive to be No1, heavy investment in R&D, hard competition with neighbors and closeness to customers. The fact that more people in these companies talk to customers has important implications for the use of social media too. Nepotism may be rife in the Mediterranean but is not a given.
Pdf summary of the presentation on Hidden Champions is here – FamilyBusinessPotentialInGreece. Read it and then try to picture a German family business like those described in it next to a Greek one…maybe after enough Germans have bought land and moved to sunny Greece a new type of GrecoGermanic mid sized company will conquer the world!