Many people associate my home city of Atlanta with our airport (home of frequently missed layovers!), traffic (if you’ve had the misfortune to drive our highways), or the Georgia Aquarium, the world’s largest. Recently I had the opportunity to visit one of our newest landmarks, and one that I hope will grow to be one of our most popular: The National Center for Human and Civil Rights.
While the role of Martin Luther King and others in the civil rights movement is well known in Atlanta and around the world, the information on human rights is less well documented. As a consumer, I was particularly struck by the information on human rights violations in the production of chocolate, flowers, soccer balls, and mobile phones.
So, how does this relate to family business? Unlike the disconnected minority owners of public companies, who invest solely to make money, owners of family owned businesses can choose to purse objectives that balance ethics and values with profits. They can choose industries, customers, suppliers and business practices that may not be the most profitable, but are choices that they can be proud of.
I recently worked with an ownership group that articulated their driving shareholder objectives as: “How we make money is as important as how much money we make.” Owners of family businesses have a unique opportunity to shape how they make money, and in doing so, shape the lives of their owners, employees, communities and other stakeholders.