Managing for the
Long Run: Lesson in Competitive Advantage from Great Family
Miller, Danny & LeBreton-Miller, Isabel. (2005) , Boston:
Harvard Business School Press.
The authors have written a wonderfully useful and readable
book about what makes family businesses different and great.
They studied a total of 58 family controlled businesses (FCB),
which included companies such as Coors Company, Cargill, Fidelity,
IKEA, Hallmark, L.L.Bean, The New York Times, S.C. Johnson
and Wal-Mart Stores. The authors note that these are not average
family businesses but the 'great' ones. In their research,
they have concluded that "four driving priorities or
even passions" are evident in the great FCBs and their
leaders. They call these the "four Cs". They are
(from page 32):
- Continuity: Pursuing the dream. Our long-lived
FCBs commit enduringly and passionately to a substantive
mission-to do something important exceptionally well. They
invest deeply and for the long run in the competencies needed
to attain that mission. And because the company is the vehicle
for achieving their dream, families strive to ensure corporate
health and continuity, exercising careful stewardship over
resources and encouraging long executive apprenticeships
and tenures. Short-term tactics and quarterly earnings are
furthest from their minds.
- Community: Uniting the tribe. To realize their
missions, thriving FCBs often insist on building a cohesive,
clanlike team. They embrace strong values that rally people
around what is important, socialize staff to assure that
these values will prevail, and often pamper employees to
elicit loyalty, initiative, and collaboration. Bureaucratic
rules and financial incentives are secondary.
- Connection: Being good neighbors. Many great FCBs
cherish enduring, open-ended, mutually beneficial relationships
with business partners, customers, and the larger society.
These relationships vastly exceed the time span, scope and
potential of episodic market or contractual transactions.
- Command: Acting and adapting with freedom. FCB
leaders desire the discretion to act independently-quickly
and in original ways-often to renew or adapt the firm. They
typically work with an empowered tope team whose members
are similarly free to communicate openly and make decisions.
Unlike at many non-FCBs, these leaders do not face hobbling
constraints from shareholders.
They conclude with some 'starting tips' for family firms
on their way to getting great:
- Follow your passion
- Use your initiative, not your job description
- Do 'sweat the small stuff'
- Time stagger your objectives
- Get people on your side
- Communicate face to face
- Resist the urge to be petty about perks and salaries.
- Make decisions that tell people who you really are.
Managing for the long run is full of examples, tips and good
guidance for successful companies or those striving to be