Holiday Bonding: A Boost for the Family Business


When it comes to the holidays we all have different traditions and activities that typically involve some sort of family gathering. For many these holiday gatherings can feel more like an obligation than anything else, particularly if your family is in business together. Living, working and playing together can be a lot. However, that extra time for family bonding outside the hectic work environment may actually be a good thing. Research has shown that coming together as a family can be a boon for families who run their own businesses.

A recent study conducted by the EY Family Business Practice in collaboration with Kennesaw State University’s Cox Family Enterprise Center found that the world’s largest most successful family businesses are run by highly cohesive families.

The leaders of these family businesses consistently rated care and pride in being a cohesive family as critical to their success. When asked whether or not they agreed with the following statements:

  • 81% agreed that they “care deeply about one another”
  • 84% agreed that they “are proud of being part of the family”
  • 77% agreed that they “stick together”

On the flip side only 21% of family business leaders expressed being engaged in frequent dysfunctional conflicts. This is somewhat counter to popular media depictions of dysfunctional family dynasties constantly at odds (think Dallas or any daytime soap opera for that matter).

In fact, the study found family business executives rely far more on their parents and spouses as trusted advisors than their consultants, bankers, and lawyers. According to Carrie Hall, EY Americas Family Business Leader, “concentrating on the family doesn’t detract from the business, but rather enhances it. The closer the family, the more likely the company is to invest capital and hire more employees — key indicators of a healthy, growing business.”

Based on the research here are some thoughts for cultivating greater family cohesion over the holidays with the hope of boosting your family business for 2015.

Express your Pride: Great teams love to show their pride and swagger. They find strength in their identity which comes from their cohesion as a unit. Essentially, they own their brand and aren’t afraid to show it. A strong brand can create a rallying point for the whole family to come together around. Your brand is your identity and a strong identity boosts confidence. Consider that 76% of the family business leaders surveyed referred to their companies as family businesses in their official communications. Remember, your business is a brand and so is your family. Own it, embrace it, and talk about it. Before digging in to your holiday meal raise a glass and give cheers to your success as a family and a brand.

Embrace the Spirit of Giving: The holiday season is a time for giving. Research has shown that the act of giving a gift can have a positive impact on your well-being. The same is true for your family business. According to the study 77% of the world’s top family business leaders believe “it is important to improve the environment” and 78% felt “it is important to pursue sustainable business practices.” In other words, giving back to the community and ultimately the planet can lead to greater cohesion and success. Spend some time talking about ways you can give back this year that are meaningful to everyone in the family. Don’t just make giving back a family tradition, make it part of your family business identity.

Declare your Future: One of the greatest risks to any business is succession. Far too many companies don’t plan for their future. This is a particularly high risk area for family businesses. The idea of passing the torch isn’t always as simple in practice as it may sound. The prospect of relinquishing ownership and responsibility can be tough to face, especially for founding family members. Research has shown that 70% of family businesses fail before they make it to the second generation. A great deal of this stems from the lack of family cohesion and willingness to have those tough conversations about succession planning. There is no better time to talk about the future than the beginning of the New Year. Carve out the time to have a very real conversation about the future of your business and how you would like to handle the inevitable transition of stewardship.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays