The 4 C's of Successful Family Businesses

What distinguishes successful family controlled businesses (FCBs)? Perhaps it is these distinctive approaches -- the Four C's:

"Continuity: Pursuing the dream. Our long-lived FCBs commit enduringly and passionately to a substantive mission - to do something important exceptionally well. They invest deeply and for the long run in the competencies needed to attain that mission. And because the company is the vehicle for achieving their dream, families strive to ensure corporate health and continuity, exercising careful stewardship over resources and encouraging long executive apprenticeships and tenures. Short-term tactics and quarterly earnings are furthest from their minds.

Community: Uniting the tribe. To realize their missions, thriving FCBs often insist on building a cohesive, clanlike team. They embrace strong values that rally people around what is important, socialize staff to assure that these values will prevail, and often pamper employees to elicit loyalty, initiative, and collaboration. Bureaucratic rules and financial incentives are secondary.

Connection: Being good neighbors. Many great FCBs cherish enduring, open-ended, mutually beneficial relationships with business partners, customers, and the larger society. These relationships vastly exceed the time span, scope, and potential of episodic market or contractual transactions.

Command: Acting and adapting with freedom. FCB leaders desire the discretion to act independently - quickly and in original ways - often to renew or adapt the firm. They typically work with an empowered top team whose members are similarly free to communicate openly and make decisions. Unlike at many non-FCBs, these leaders do not face hobbling constraints from shareholders."

From this HBS Working Knowledge article.