Classically I believe it takes ten years to achieve confirmation as a “successful family business”. Up until approximately that point in time family leadership is being tested to determine if it has the moxy and versatility to maintain a workable balance and move closer to the optimum Family Business Acceptance Equilibrium unique to that family and business. Up until the ten year point from my perspective, most leaders do not know if compliant family and staff are simply tolerating insensitive “what have you done for me lately” conditional acceptance or appreciating the constant reaffirmation that “we are fam-a-ly” unconditional acceptance.

No doubt there is a lot going on during these formative years. Some are celebrating that the family has found a business endeavor through which they can continue social interaction that was previously restrained to the home. Some are giddy with the extraordinary productivity of their collaborative efforts. And some are regretting that they ever agreed to be exposed to the emotional cross fire and unrelenting demands of hard ass family business leaders. Irrespective of the productivity of business or the harmony of family this is a period in which the family business searches for balance that fulfills the priorities of family members and key managers. This is a time of management trial and error and subsequent predictable movement up and down the scale of business productivity and family harmony.  During this time the collaborative business initiative matures and determines its ability to adapt to changes in expectations caused by a variety of issues including; maturity of family members, entry of new family members, retirement of family members, assertions by key managers with various forms of leverage, etc. 

Beyond this hypothetical ten year maturation point, I see various types of businesses;

  1. Those that have famously achieved family and business balance 
  2. Those first, second and even third generation businesses that are impressively adapting to the inevitable changes in business and family circumstances
  3. Those that are struggling because they are unaware of the demand for versatility to react to changes in their environment
  4. Those that are doomed because they are totally unaware that the world is not going to adapt to their inflexible attitudes regarding unconditional or conditional acceptance. 


The fact of the matter is that all family businesses, those that are fighting the test of survival and those deemed successful are constantly slipping out of balance and or recovering their Equilibrium. Successful adaptation to change is the common characteristic of all successful family businesses.  

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