Family Ties Online: Expanding Your Family Business Library

In an earlier column, a thorough review of the founding family of the New York Times was presented. We follow now with four short descriptions of excellent building blocks for your family business library. Three of the books have withstood the years and remain timely today, and the fourth was published just a few years ago. They each belong on your bookshelf. The reviews were prepared by Renee Montoya Lado and Natalie McVeigh of Strategic Designs for Learning. They serve as the book reviewers for The Family Owned Business Network. Enjoy.

The Essence of a Family Enterprise

by Samuel C. Johnson

The phrase “oldie but goodie” is an apt description of this book. We are fortunate enough to hear from a family business owner who was at the time leading Johnson & Johnson, a company that today continues to be cited as an exemplary family-owned business. The real value of the book is the wisdom from a person who has been where most family business owners have been, and has some suggestions for practices, as well as tested advice and perspectives to lend. It is a quick introductory read for those of you who might be inspired by his commitment to legacy.

The issues he highlights include servant leadership, successive generations becoming invested in the company, profit-sharing for employees, and open-door policies for the company. He really speaks to the virtue and need for wise counsel for family business owners in order for them to be more successful. Johnson & Johnson has a long history of corporate social responsibility, which he outlines extensively in this book. Not only is it corporate and foundational monetary giving, but also giving employees time off to volunteer with their causes and employee contribution matching.

This family and family business really have an outward look to their community, employees and the family as a whole. The book displays how that outlook and methodology can lead to a lasting family-owned business and a lasting family legacy.

The Smart Divorce: Proven Strategies and Valuable Advice from 100 Top Divorce Lawyers, Financial Advisers, Counselors and Other Experts

by Deborah Moskovitch

The enormous success of the DUMMIES book series is self-evident. If ever there was a Divorce for Dummies, this would be it—offered with no disrespect.

It is at once a resource book replete with definitions, practical advice and lists of resources. It walks the reader through the “land of divorce” with a straightforward pragmatism. The book is an easy read and informative. One can imagine it dog-eared and coffee-stained on someone’s kitchen table. Go right out and send this book to any of your friends who might be contemplating a divorce or, worse, who might have been served with papers asking for a divorce. It will serve as an orientation—a traveler’s guide to the impending terrain. In many instances, you are reading the actual experiences of the author.

Philanthropy, Heirs & Values: How Successful Families are Using Philanthropy to Prepare Their Heirs

by Roy Williams and Vic Preisser

Another excellent resource from the Institute for Preparing Heirs. Much of family business literature speaks to the issue of talking to children early and frequently about wealth, what it means and how to prepare for its transfer; however, the authors Roy and Vic actually take this matter a step further. They believe that philanthropy is a great way to prepare heirs regarding wealth and its implications. As with many of the institute’s publication, this one starts with the research regarding philanthropy and its implications for family business members. What is unique is the road map of developmental stages, including ways to speak with and reach the heirs as well as specific ways to check for their understanding.

Each stage is described and given an age range. After you understand the stage and its implications, there are specific exercises and opportunities outlined that can be used to teach children. In each stage, the categories that are being checked for are values, mission and accountability. The authors do a great job of integrating small case studies that relate to each section exploring both well-prepared and less-than-prepared families. This is a great resource for any family business owner who wants to start creating wealth literate heirs.

Seeking Succession: How to Continue the Family Business Legacy (Second Edition)

by Loyd H. Rawls

The author is a practitioner and a principal in his own financial planning firm. We emphasize that because therein lies the value and credibility for any family business founder.

This is an excellent resource for any member of a family business, particularly in the area of financial planning, whether or not one might be ready to “exit” your business. The information that remains current and advice regarding regulations, taxes, estate planning, etc., will be invaluable. Interestingly, Mr. Rawls also ably tackles other management and family issues such as succession, communication and family relationships.

The format of the book is quite helpful, with case studies in each section, which are additional learning options to the reader should they require more application of the concepts and principles he teaches. The book is quite optimistic about a family’s ability to grapple with and finally master major dilemmas in the areas of succession, exit or difficult familial relationships.

Seeking Succession is not a quick or easy read, per se, but definitely a resource that any founder or owner would be remiss to not have in their library. By the way, if you are going to order this book, be sure to order the second edition. The changes from the first edition are very important.

Family Legacy and Leadership: Preserving True Family Wealth in Challenging Times

by Mark Haynes Daniel and Sara S. Hamilton

This book would be a perfect textbook for family-owned businesses. It is very clearly and concisely written, and is organized in a more academic way. It is important to emphasize the vast array of experience and knowledge the authors have, but also to consider that it is not an easy read because of the sheer amount of information being presented. The book also has checkpoints and questions for progression on each topic at the end of each chapter.

The authors coined their own phrase, “legacy family,” which emphasizes family legacy, history, family wealth and a tangible strategy. And all of that starts with a detailed understanding of who or what that particular family is. This is based on the authors’ research and practice with successful family businesses. They assert that “protecting and building a true definition of legacy is all about identifying and preserving what the family holds most dear—through time and across generations.”