Strengthening the Family Business Culture
As family businesses mature across generations, businesses often grow larger and more structured. Owning families move apart both geographically and psychologically. These changes can threaten a key family business advantage: The family's impact on the business' culture.
To maintain cohesiveness of family values and to continuously reinforce the connection between family values and business culture, family businesses use a variety of techniques. Here are some:
Have family members help conduct new employee orientation sessions and management training programs.
Have family members visit all the business' locations on Founder's Day or at Christmas.
Have family create a company history display or write a history of the company.
Have young family members tour facilities; older youngsters work summers or have internships.
Have family members selectively attend board meetings or strategy retreats as observers.
Have family make a charitable gift each year in recognition of employees and in honor of a family value.
Have the family attend company ceremonies and important events.
Have an annual meeting between the family and the board and/or executive management to share stories of the family's values making a difference in the business.
Have family sponsor an award for some form of employee excellence reflective of the family's values.
Most of these suggestions rely on visibility and symbolism, two core elements of a business culture. Morever, they get family members to interact with the employees, vendors, directors or customers. We also find that families receive great value from the process of producing two types of clearly articulated statements: one dealing with the family's core business values and how those values bring strength to the business; the other, a statement of how the business' strategy is strengthened by the values of the owning family.
With these understandings clearly in mind, family members can confidently reinforce and promote the family's values and the business' culture. The more they promote the values and the culture the more they believe them and the more proud they are of the company.
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