There are lots of people keen to stress that the majority of family firms do not make it past the third generation but there are still lots that do. In 2015 the UK saw the 26th generation of 500 year old family firm RJ Balson take the helm whilst the oldest firm in Scotland celebrated it's 300th anniversary.
Longevity may not be the destination for the majority but there are lessons that can be learned along the way. Governance is key, as is clear, open and honest communication and there is a need to ensure that the people making the decisions have the core skills necessary to do so, increasing the chances of family business sustainability for future generations too.
It’s no secret that family businesses can struggle with governance, leadership transitions, and even survival. Consider a few high-profile examples: Banco Espírito Santo was rescued by the Portuguese government last year following the resignation of its CEO, the great-grandson of the bank’s founder, amid allegations of financial improprieties. The Doosan Group, a South Korean conglomerate, was thrown into turmoil when the clan that runs it replaced one brother with another in the chief executive role. Fiat, the Italian auto group run by the heirs of Gianni Agnelli, went through five CEOs and three chairmen in two years before bringing in an outsider to lead it.