I am a member of the Vistage organization and I recently responded to a question posted by a fellow member on a discussion board there and I thought I would share my thoughts here as well. The question was: Are ethics and integrity in the business community a thing of the past? My response was as follows:
While family owned businesses don’t often get good press, in my experience they are among the most ethical businesses out there for a number of reasons. First, they have a true long-term view: they make investments and decisions based on the impact over generations, not just a quarter’s worth of financial results. Second, they are often deeply involved in their communities – feel a sense of real human connection to their employees and the town in which they and their company ‘grew up’ – as a result, they often give back through serious philanthropy, community service efforts, and invest in education and skill building of their teams. Third, there is the ‘name is on the door effect’ – when your family’s reputation is directly connected to a business – that puts an additional level of focus on ethical questions. The Smuckers family business is a great example of this & they embed this idea in their slogan: “With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good…”
While clearly not every family controlled business reflects a strong ethical compass (and regrettably it is the poor behavior of a few that is most often reflected in the media) – I find a tremendous number of family owned enterprises operate their companies with the very best ethics – which contributes to why they are so key to our economy.