Did you know that the vast majority of businesses in the United States are family-owned? Moreover, between three-fifths and three-quarters of employment and wages can be attributed directly to family businesses.
And this type of structure isn’t restricted to small, local companies. Many large national, and even multinational, ones remain wholly privately owned by their founding families, and many that have gone public remain family-controlled. Nor, certainly, is the phenomenon restricted to the U.S. – it is global.
As a result, there is a great likelihood that you – as a director, manager or consultant – will be involved with family business either directly, or via a competitor, partner, or vendor. Consequently, it would behoove you to understand the unique ways they work – which, given their prevalence and penetration in the economy, should be understood as not really so unique after all.
But there is another equally compelling reason to read this excellent book, Family Business – The Essentials, by Peter Leach: it will help you to understand corporate culture – even in non-family businesses – in an intimately useful and insightful way.
You will recognize much in the supposedly singular family business culture that is familiar to you wherever you work. For instance, the excellent review of the strengths and weaknesses produced at the intersection of the family and business structures should awaken recognition in those of us who sometimes are still surprised to find ourselves forced to deal with relationship issues – especially in established firms with robustly influential corporate cultures – in addition to the more straightforward business and management process issues that we had expected.
In fact, much that isn’t familiar will probably still strike you as directly or indirectly applicable to important issues you face. The discussion in the book of the management succession issue in a family business is a quite good example of this. The structure and use of family business boards is another.
As a bonus, you will find that the book is written with refreshing clarity of organization and expression. It is virtually free of the annoying text-boxes, quotations inserted with wide-eyed emphasis, or patronizing quizzes and chapter “main idea” summaries scatter-shot through so many business books, today. The sparing use that is made of charts and tables is plainly and effectively illustrative of ideas being pursued in the main text.
Family Businesses, from its title onward, speaks to you with unpretentious respect and a thoroughly readable and professional dialogue which is effectively disciplined by its goal to make you a better director, manager, or consultant for a family business.
Unlike so many of the bad books on business in print today, this one not only meets its goals – it exceeds them. Whatever sort of business you work with today, you will benefit from a reading of this really good book.
Today’s tip: Speaking of a company that pervasively penetrates the economy, please see this illuminating and extensive explanation of how Procter & Gamble uses operations research to drive much of its decision-making processes, written by Andrew Hines at BNET.
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