We’ve been talking a lot lately about the important role culture plays in organizations and how that is particularly visible within family businesses. That’s because family firms have been really clear about their values from the beginning – even if those values were never captured and put on a poster for the office. It is these values that form culture. The founder’s approach to doing business, interacting with customers, employees and the community all work together to help define a business culture, which can have significant impacts on how successful the family firm is over time.
So, while the culture of most organizations is deeply informed by the values of the founder, in a family business those values are more likely to continue long into the future and be deeply shared across the organization. The reason is simple: The founder of a non-family business will be eventually replaced as President or CEO by someone who has his or her own set of values and even though supportive of the culture, rarely has a vested interest in the company culture beyond understanding the role it plays.
But in the family firm, there is strong continuity of culture and values long after the founder is gone with the presence of family members as owners, managers or board members. The family “legacy” of a strong and positive culture can naturally perpetuate the original culture established by the founder for generations to come.
This kind of deeply held, long term culture is key to a winning business strategy by doing business in a way that is consistently in line with the values of the founder. From this point of view, continuity planning takes on a whole new level of meaning: It is so much more than making sure there are family members in future leadership roles. It also ensures that the winning culture of the family business can easily and seamlessly move with subsequent generations to perpetuate success.