Communications, Compensation and Corporate Culture

Amy Schuman

Many family businesses struggle with the question – how much financial information can we share – both with employees and with other family members? In fact, one negative stereotype of family business culture is of a secretive owning family that only fully trusts a small inner circle.

Yet sometimes, family culture can work in the opposite, positive, direction. Many top performing private companies extend the ‘family culture’ well beyond blood relatives. The Midwestern retail business referenced earlier this week is a passionate proponent of ‘Open Book Management’ – where all team members, at every level of the company, have full knowledge of the company’s financial goals and performance – and where everyone shares in generous profit sharing. Innovative bonus programs give every co-worker the opportunity to build for a secure retirement, based on company performance.

At year end, the founder and members of his top management team hold a series of meetings to report on company performance, set goals for the coming year, and most important – thank every co-worker for their hard work and contribution. In these meetings, the company’s mission and values – directly shaped by the values of the owning family – are reviewed and reinforced with examples from top performing stores. Though the timing always coincides with the busy holiday season, the top team spends a full week travelling the mid-west to these meetings, going out to the co-worker’s locations to thank them where they live and work. 

These actions speak as loud as the words.  And the results are more than only on morale.  The ‘family’ culture that this company works hard to create and sustain leads to some fantastic financial results. Stay tuned for more later this week…

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