This article is inspired by three masterpieces on the subject - Lessons from the World's Most Enduring Family Businesses: Centuries of Success by William T O'Hara; The Living Company by Arie De Geus and the research of Harno Funabashi.
Deep and inspiring conversations with Dr. Ram Charan have been a great source of learning.
Lastly, my own experiences as a family business practitioner have helped me blend these learnings.
Why not let corporations die?
Whether a family company or otherwise, what is so special about enduring companies? Why should they continue to survive? There is no right answer and it could take hours of acrimonious debate to be able to convince impatient capital, traders and speculative short-term investors looking for quick results and quarterly performance and valuations. It would be even more difficult to dissuade shareholders from buying companies and dismantling them into component parts.
It is finally a matter of how we see companies - are they merely for economic purpose or do they fulfill a larger socio-economic purpose?
Characteristics of long-lived companies:
The characteristics are similar for family and non-family businesses. Family companies have a few more dimensions to ring fence their genetic vulnerabilities.
The writer specialises in family business advisory