Books like Built to Last and Good to Great offer a recipe for successful business performance.  There are now millions of people talking about big hairy audacious goals that can be accomplished by putting the right people in the right seat on the right bus. 

If your primary goal in life is business success, then these books – and others like them – should definitely be on your reading list.  By reading them, you will either confirm your belief in how to manage and lead your business or deny them.

While we believe that you cannot run a family like a business, nor can you run a business like a family, it is also true that families, like businesses, can be built to last and can move from good to great.  But the family dynamics have to be deeply rooted in love and respect for both of those events to occur.

In coaching and mentoring many families, we find several consistent themes that emerge in those that seem built to last.  Here are some of the most common characteristics of great families:

  1. Individuals are recognized as persons in their own right.  They are encouraged and allowed to pursue their own interests, even when those interests fall outside the scope of the family business.
  2. Family members are given the benefit of the doubt.  In short, they are considered innocent until found guilty.
  3. Asset inheritance is based on equitable distribution rather than equal distribution.
  4. Family members listen to each other and communicate openly – they have crucial conversations when necessary.
  5. Family members optimize each others’ talents and skills, drawing on strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses.
  6. There is a value based decision making system that consistently leads to good work/life choices and actions.
  7. Money and possessions are not confused with wealth.

This list is small, and you can probably think of others or of different ways to phrase the ones mentioned above.  My partners and I would like to have you share your thoughts with us.  For as much as we appreciate the need for a business to perform well enough to insure succession success, we also believe very strongly that no business success is worth a family failure.

Many of us, probably most of us, have never seen economic and business conditions as frightening and severe as those of the last several quarters.  The strain has been tough on business, and it has been tough on family and personal relationships.  While they cannot be run the same way, both businesses and families can be built to last. 

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