1. Live by your values
Values lie at the heart of successful family businesses. Family values likely influenced the foundation of the business and have helped to connect different generations over time. Values are important because businesses that live by their values are more likely to make decisions that are in the best, long-term interests of their stakeholders. One of our award winners is Far East Organization, Singapore’s largest private property developer and a Christian enterprise that aims to serve with grace, honesty, integrity and love. It believes the places where we live, work and play can help to nurture progress and success, which is why it creates spaces that improve people’s lives.
Values are also important to our other winners. Take another property company — New Zealand’s Barfoot & Thompson. For nearly 100 years, the real estate business, which is now run by the third generation, has held true to the founding families’ values of family, community, diversity and people. In Brazil, Energisa Group celebrated its 115th anniversary in 2020. Now the country’s fifth-largest energy distribution group, the business has maintained its founders’ values of safety, people, innovation, commitment, results and customers. And in Finland, the family behind travel and health care company Aho Group nurtures the company’s commitment to “brave and joyful entrepreneurship, long-term thinking and sustainability.” Finally, the core value of family-owned Dutch manufacturing business VDL Groep is “strength through cooperation.”
2. Look after your people
People are a huge source of competitive advantage for family businesses. In fact, their success at retaining the loyalty of their people is a major reason why family businesses are so effective at navigating challenging times. Thomas Hartland-Mackie, President and CEO of US electrical wholesale distributor City Electric Supply, heeds the advice of his grandfather, who founded the business in 1951.
That advice is: “If you take care of your employees, they take care of your customers.” During the difficult trading conditions that followed the 2008 financial crisis, Thomas involved his employees in critical decision-making. He also continues the family tradition of treating employees as family. At Barfoot & Thompson, the family owners look after their staff by ensuring the business remains financially sound — instead of taking money out of the business, they put money aside to shore it up.