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Drs. Pat & Paul Frishkoff
Globally-Experienced Consultants Specializing In Family Businesses

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Why Family Businesses Endure

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Many characteristics explain why family businesses endure. Detailed comprehensive strategies, choosing qualified successor(s), and estate planning are obvious, as are honest communication and preserving the legacy. We ask you to consider three characteristics that aren't so obvious.

Major Building Blocks

Do you know what aspects of your business account for its market position and financial success? Torrini has been continuously owned by one family longer than any other manufacturer of jewelry. It was recently identified by Family Business magazine as the seventh oldest family business in the world. Its corporate logo features its date of founding-1369.

During an extensive interview with Franco (father) and Fabrizio (son) Torrini, these family members termed their major building blocks as "souls." They first discussed the obvious artistic soul of the company. Creativity and skill are evident in the rich beauty of their designs. This was the building block most relied on during 600+ years of production.

The second building block was more surprising. Added recently, this sets them apart, and is the mark of the newest generation. The second building block, cited by Fabrizio as key to the company's success, is technology. A CAD system is used to design jewelry, even diamond rings. Elegant advertisements, with jewelry in the foreground and historic sites in the background, and an excellent website were all developed in-house.

Torrini credits two types of building blocks for its long success:

  1. The traditional, ever-present
  2. What's new and necessary in today's age

Considering these two categories, what building blocks account for your success?

Quality Relationships

Relationships wrought with conflict destroy family businesses; we've seen it in our communities and read about it in the press. In contrast, businesses that endure are built on quality relationships-among family members. Mission statements often include standards of quality for customer and employee relationships. We've seldom seen written agreements including trust and mutual respect among family members.

If your business is intended to endure, we suggest that you evaluate yourselves on these two criteria:

  1. Do you express as much appreciation as you deserve?
  2. Do you treat family members as well as you do your customers?
Entrepreneurial Outlook

Family businesses that anticipate the future and are positioned accordingly increase the likelihood of survival. Witness the success of Antinori, the premier wine producing family of Italy for over 600 years. Founded in 1385, the company is in transition to the 26th generation, as depicted in the family coat-of-arms proudly displayed on the Antinori web site homepage.

We noticed this entrepreneurial outlook in each of the two generations interviewed during a recent visit. Marchese Piero Antinori was a driving force in igniting the quality revolution in the 1980s, launching what is known as the "Renaissance in Italian Wines." He declared, "More has changed in the past 20 years than in the previous 200." Unafraid to challenge tradition and bureaucratic rules, Piero Antinori successfully experimented with different blends of grapes, pioneered the use of small oak barrels, "barriques," and expanded acreage in Italy and outside, including joining with producers in the Napa Valley.

The Antinori Vineyards
Badia a Passignano, Tuscany
by A. Holdsworth - reproduced with permission

The vision of this leader is truly entrepreneurial; his plans to grow the company rest on the shoulders of his children, his three daughters, the firm's first-ever female leaders in a country and industry dominated by men. Each daughter is eager for involvement and has prepared herself superbly for leadership. The oldest manages a winery in the Piedmont region. The second is in charge of external relations and hospitality. The youngest, a recent graduate of the Oenological Institute of Milan, is the most technologically expert. With each having a different focus, and all having the right ingredients-according to their father-of brains and passion, the outlook for the 26th generation is promising.

If we were to interview your own family, what signs would we find of an entrepreneurial outlook, to set you apart as a family business that endures?

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