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  • Service: Enterprise, Family business
  • Type: Business and industry issue
  • Date: 10/14/2013

Success and sustainability in family companies: it’s about people 

Success and sustainability
Sustainability is a popular buzzword in current business circles. Every business owner with a long-term view of the future wants to know how to make their business last and succeed beyond their immediate contribution.

Sustainability can be defined as ‘the ability to endure or continue without end’. There are different ways in which to measure sustainability and traditionally companies have focused on financial measures such as cost of materials, quantity of sales, and profit over time.


Increasingly, however, business owners are considering other aspects that can impact on the survival of their business – namely, their relationship with the environment (human and environmental) and their people. This is often referred to as the people-planet-profit triangle.

Sustainability and the family business

Here we look at the importance of your people to the sustainability of your family business. Focusing on the relationships you have with your employees can have wide-ranging effects, from increasing employee loyalty, to creating a positive public profile…


Studies show that happy, satisfied employees are essential to business success – they work harder, take on more responsibility, and commit to the future of the business – a major step in creating sustainability. Successful individuals, capable of driving a business forward, stay with businesses that value their input and appreciate them as individuals with personal career ambitions.

Creating a successful and sustainable working environment

The following tips can help you to foster a positive working environment for these people:

  • Create a positive atmosphere: As a business owner, you set the tone for office interactions and relationships. How you treat your employees will filter through into how they treat each other and the business as a whole. By encouraging employees to interact with, support, and understand each other, you will help them to feel part of an institution that’s bigger than themselves.
  • Build on your employees’ strengths: Commit to understanding the strengths and skills of your people and place them in positions where they can be effective and successful. If you show employees that they are valued, they will be less likely to seek that recognition in another business. Remember that most people feel motivated at work when they tackle tasks that are challenging but not impossible.
  • Make education a must: Whether up-skilling interested employees or getting talented employees to share their knowledge with others, encouraging employees to improve their knowledge through learning will uplift your workforce as a whole. Motivated employees are also less likely to focus on petty office politics and to feel supported in their growth.
  • Appreciate the importance of work-life balance: People whose day jobs take over their home lives are much more likely to quit than those that are afforded time for family, friends, and outside interests – all of which make for a more contented time at work. When an employee is valued as a whole person, they are more likely to value the business that gives them the lifestyle they enjoy.

Sustainable succession planning

Acknowledging, supporting, and developing individuals within your business is essential for its future success. However, relying too heavily on a small group of key people can act as a stumbling stone to sustainability.


Unless those individuals are encouraged to work within teams, document their processes, and share their knowledge and skill with others, if they leave the business, their loss will have a massive impact on its potential to survive. As a business owner, you also need to think about how to incorporate star employees into a succession plan – both for their own development and the good of the business.


This might mean recognising that members of your own family, even if they’re involved in the business, might not be the right people to run the business in the future. David Bradley of The Succession Group argues that it’s never too early to cultivate a talent pool for your business, made up of employees prepared to lead the business into the future.


Paying attention to the people in your business and the impact they can make will help you to ensure the sustainability and success of your family company in the long-term.

Christophe Bernard

Christophe Bernard
I am a KPMG partner based in the French firm’s Paris office, responsible for encouraging the growth of our firms’ middle markets practice across Europe, Middle East and Africa, a majority of that market comprises of family businesses.
 

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