Tag Archives: Financial Times

Family Business Advantage

by John L. Ward

Professor Morgan Witzel of Exeter Business School wrote a fascinating critique of “scientific management” in the FT (July 18, 2011, p 11). In it he argued that “the passion for metrics” meant too little attention to difficult to measure, yet invaluable, elements of success:

Customer loyalty
Personal commitment
Ethical behavior

It seems to me these areas are just where family businesses excel and establish long-term competitive advantages – another example of “unconventional” family business strategy.


Kate, William and the Paradox of Governance

There’s a terrific essay in the May 1 Financial Times (“Dynastic lessons from the familial Windsor flourish,” by Simon Schama).  I paraphrase it to highlight some fun family business insights. But it’s better if you can read the essay in its full brilliance.

The British royal wedding, the author presents, reminds us of some fascinating dimensions of governance and leadership – even illustrating some of the current mid-east revolutions.

  • Dynastic leadership works when there is a balanced blend of “majestic difference” and “bourgeois familiarity”.  If it goes too far out of balance effective governance suffers.
  • Put another way, leadership draws on both the basic human need for revenue and affection.
  • This view raises the whole classic debate of whether the natural form of governance is patriarchal or representative democracy.

The author proposes the paradox of needing mystique more and more as democracy and capitalism bring less of it.


Happy Families: Proximity and Privacy

John Ward
John Ward

The Financial Times (1/9/11, p. 7) had a feature article on three generation joint Indian families living in the same home and how they design their homes to “encourage modern nuclear-style living, alongside age-old cultural values, which promote communal life.”

This situation recalls the classical paradox of individuality and collective.

One architect quoted tells of the need to “mediate between two generations with two diverse and opposing viewpoints.” The common balance seems to be to provide independent living quarters for each generation (with separate kitchens) and shared entrance and lounge/living room where everyone’s interests – “independent-but-connected,” as one architect put it.

There are other ways respect for traditional communal living are preserved: shared courtyard, gym, translucent internal doors, and single staircase. The balance is further struck by re-emphasizing “family rituals such as always eating Sunday lunches together and using the whole house for celebrations with extended family.”

Beyond balancing different views and seeking the benefits of both proximity and privacy, one person in the article found synthesis with an unambiguous comment:

“A lot of people of my generation feel they are doing a favor for their parents by living with them, but if you’re a working mother you’re being done the biggest favor.”