Perspectives from ISB

The decision-making in most family firms is guided by the values of the family. Hence they are seen as critical to the success and future of these companies. In an international survey of 336 middle-market family firms, nearly three out of four senior level family member executives reported that there are clearly identifiable family values determining the way the business is managed. Moreover, nine out of ten of these family members say that these values were crucial to the economic success and other achievements (e.g., charitable efforts) of their family businesses. Of the 197 senior level family members identifying the importance of the family’s values in managing the company, nearly 90 percent also suggested that it is very important to transfer these seminal values to the next generation. Moreover, 57 family members went to the extent of suggesting that family members who do not embrace these values should not be in leadership roles in the family business.

65 percent of those surveyed reported that family harmony is a major concern. Clearly defined values can help achieve this objective as it can stabilize the structure and dynamics in the family. Family values can substantially influence the way the family business is organized as well as the way both family members working in the firm and those who are not interact with each other around company decisions.