How Diverse is Your Family?

 Joe Schmieder
Joe Schmieder

Every family contains some level of common background, political and religious persuasions, and perspectives on business and family life. One fourth-generation family business in the Midwest is identified with many shared interests, including Catholicism, Polish heritage, Loyola Family Business Institute, Democratic Party, Chicago White Sox and Pulaski Days!

However, there are some family members who have opted to diversify their views, lifestyles and career pursuits. The more common are family members’ interests, the more homogeneous is the group. The more diverse, the more heterogeneous is the group.

There is no right or wrong answer.

It is only natural that the larger the family grows, the more diverse it becomes.  Spouses (in-laws) help to introduce diversity since they have often lived in different locations and been brought up in different family situations. While we find many family members still living in a rather homogeneous family group, many families are moving towards greater heterogeneity. This can be a healthy factor, but can also create tension that requires greater sensitivity, acceptance and creativity to take advantage of the greater diversity.

Acceptance and understanding of those who choose to pursue other paths can determine whether or not a family business continues for multiple generations. Celebrating diversity and learning how to take advantage of the different skills and perspectives is more likely to produce a harmonious family.