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How Innovative is Your Family Business?

Joe Schmieder
Joe Schmieder

Would you characterize your family business as innovative?  Can you think of an innovation that has helped strengthen the business or the family?

Back in 1961 a few doctors doing research at the University of Florida developed the formula for what would soon became known as Gatorade.  Applying their research to create a drink that more quickly replenished an athlete’s energy (salt and sugar) was a great “product” innovation.

But perhaps an even greater innovation was the creation of a Gatorade Family Trust to ensure ongoing distributions from drink sales regardless of who owned the brand.  Today just two shares of Gatorade yields over $500,000 per year according to Darren Rovell, author of “First in Thirst – How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat into a Cultural Phenomenon.”   It is not one family that is part of the trust.  It is three extended families that comprise this “family of affinity.”

The Gatorade story shows how one product innovation can endure for multiple generations, and how one ownership innovation – a group trust – can also endure for multiple generations.

What innovation in your family business can you share with us?  A product, service, process, communication technique, estate plan, governance structure —- Innovation comes in many forms for a family business.