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Bundle of Sticks

The underlying message found in the parable of “the bundle of sticks” may provide the basis for long-lived family business success. Keys to success for sibling partnerships are strong mutual commitment and a belief that they are stronger together than apart. In admonishments to their children, parents sometimes immortalize those precepts in their wills or from their deathbeds.

One poignant illustration is found in the 60-year history of the largest food products company in Israel, the third generation Strauss family business. Talking of her business relationship with her brother, with whom she has shared business ownership for the past 30 years, the second generation daughter acknowledges the impact of her mother’s will, in which she simply requested of her children that they “never resort to quarreling, that they never part, and that they forever support each other.” Said the daughter:

“I am absolutely committed to support Michael all the way. We have never had any serious argument, we always consult each other and he tends to listen to me and trusts my instincts. (It) was mother’s will that we hold everything together. Mother knew it was impossible to fight outside (competitively) and inside as well. Mother knew that in order to win in a big way, we had to be a winning team.”

(Strauss: Story of a Family and an Industry, S.Y. Levi. Keter, Jerusalem, Israel 1999)

Spain’s Puig family provides another example. Puig, a global marketer of perfumes and other fashion products, won the Family Business Network’s “Distinguished Family Business Award” in 1998. From the father-founder on his deathbed in 1979 to his four sons, all in the business, came the following plea:

‘Stay together. Your unity will be your strength.’

According to the Family Business Network Newsletter, when second-generation Puigs looked at the 20 years prior to passing leadership to the third generation, they recognized that “unity has been one of the identifying characteristics of the second generation. Formal and informal meetings take place... communication is excellent, and respect for one another abounds.” (For more information on Corporacion Puig, see the Advisor’s February 1999 issue).

One stick is easy to break but it is near impossible to break sticks when bundled together. The message is simple but powerful and particularly true as it relates to business-owning families.

 

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