U.S. Trust and the University of Virginia Darden School of Business Offer Insights on Building and Transitioning a Family Business to Last Multiple Generations
Family-owned and -controlled businesses, which account for 90 percent of all U.S. companies,1 rarely outlive their founders to survive the next generation. Only one in three defies the odds, but that requires a well-thought-out transition plan and, in some cases, even a non-family member to step in and lead, according to a new white paper by U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management, and the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.
The paper reveals eight lessons learned about building a family business and enhancing its value across generations. U.S. Trust, which helps family businesses live past their founders, partnered with the University of Virginia Darden School of Business to explore the distinct challenges and advantages of owning a family business, particularly when it comes to transitioning leadership, ownership and control. Their findings are outlined in a jointly published report, "," with insight from proprietary and academic research, case studies, and in-depth conversations with business owners.
“Companies that thrive for multiple generations under the ownership of the same family offer valuable lessons for building sustainable companies,” said Katy Knox, president, U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management. “These businesses are strengthening communities, sustaining families, and driving growth and innovation throughout the economy.”
According to with family members involved in or employed by their business, seven in 10 see family involvement as a competitive advantage.2 When asked about their transition plans, 52 percent of business owners hope to eventually sell or transfer ownership of the company to family members or employees.3 Despite this optimism, history shows that the smooth transition of a family business is an exception, not the rule, and the rate of success decreases with each subsequent generation.
Lessons learned from multi-generational family businesses are distilled into eight actionable insights for family business leaders as they consider generational transitions, make strategic investments, work to create an inclusive culture, and innovate without losing their roots.
“Because a family business is a source of pride, identity and wealth, founding generations understandably want to see the business continue for the ongoing benefit of family,” said Karen Reynolds Sharkey, managing director and National Business Owner Strategy executive for U.S. Trust. “Keeping the passion alive, engaging and developing future leaders, and effectively passing the baton to the next generation can be as hard as building the business in the first place. By sharing these insights, we hope to help business leaders plan a transition that protects, and even enhances, the value and legacy of the family business.”
“We are pleased to partner with U.S. Trust to shed light on these important and often little-considered issues,” said Greg Fairchild, Isidore Horween research associate professor of business administration at the Darden School and the University of Virginia’s director of Northern Virginia Operations. “The lessons distilled from these family businesses have applicability for both business creation and preservation.”
The report features four original case studies of businesses spanning one to five generations of family ownership. Collectively, the three issues family business owners say they contend with most are: human capital, financial capital, and innovation. The report covers each of these areas with in-depth contributed commentary from Darden School of Business professors and an exploration of five core leadership themes, including spotting and harnessing talent; developing the next generation; engaging ownership through communication; innovating and staying agile; and building (and sharing) wealth.
A full copy of the Family Matters report is available for free download and can be found at .
U.S. Trust’s survey of business owners is part of its 2018 U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth series, a broader study of nearly 1,000 high net worth individuals that examines the motivation, behaviors and goals for creating and using wealth.
1 Forbes “The Facts of Family Business,” July 31, 2013
2, 3 U.S. Trust “Insights on Wealth & Worth Study,” 2018
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