Perspectives on multi-generational family business success

Mienie, Carel Johannes Hendrik (2014-12)

Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.


Family businesses struggle to be sustainable over multiple generations. In fact, most family businesses do not survive past the second generation. With this study the goal of the researcher was to provide family businesses with a conceptual model which could assist them to become multi-generational financially sustainable. This goal was achieved by answering the main research question, namely: What are the critical elements that a family business should consider continuously in order to ensure multi-generational financial sustainability? Those critical elements that a family business should consider were firstly explored through a literature review process. From this literature review a preliminary conceptual model was developed. Secondly, seven family business experts, with a total of 176 years of family business experience among them, were selected in order to gain their perspectives on the critical elements that family businesses should consider to be sustainable over multiple generations. They were also requested to evaluate the preliminary conceptual model and were invited to make suggestions for the improvement thereof. This exercise provided the researcher with ample information in order to create a valid final conceptual model, which in this study is referred to as: The Family Business Success Map. During the final part of this research study, the Family Business Success Map was applied to an existing multi-generational family business in order to evaluate the processes which it followed during two situations of succession, and some recommendations were made. This study can contribute towards the field of family business management through the development of a conceptual model, the Family Business Success Map. This can be used by owners and advisors to help family businesses to implement those critical practices that successful multi-generational family businesses have followed. The study found that family businesses needed to become more structured and professional. It further found that there were five critical practices which successful family businesses followed in order to be sustainable over the long term. Those five critical practices were conceptualised in the Family Business Success Map. The basis for all five practices is good governance, transparent communication and an entrepreneurial orientation. The challenge for family businesses is to grow their businesses faster than their families. In order to accomplish this, family businesses need to invest continuously in the entrepreneurial development of their management. This study found that the first practice which successful family businesses followed was that they formally planned for succession. This plan should clearly state what the ground rules of succession are and should be revisited and adjusted continuously. The plan should provide for both ownership and management succession. The second practice which successful family businesses followed was that they were governed by Advisory Boards. These boards should meet regularly and should preferably include some independent members. Continuous development of board members is important. This forms part of the critical element: the practice of leadership. Furthermore, it was found that the third practice which successful family businesses followed was that they had a formal strategic plan in place. They also recommended that the trusted advisors of the family businesses should be involved in the process of formulating the strategic plan. Family harmony, the fourth critical practice, could be accomplished through transparent and comprehensive communication from the businesses to the families. Through the establishment of formal family meetings, family matters that were not business-related, could be dealt with. The last of the five critical practices which successful family businesses followed was the use of cost accounting management practices, not only in their normal business decisions, but in strategic decision-making as well.

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