If you're feeling mugged by Madoff, restless about recession or fearful about your family's future then two upbeat news stories this week should lift your spirits writes Marc Smith.
First, Thierry Lombard, the newly installed president of the Family Business Network, has wasted no time in reminding owners that they are well placed to overcome the current financial crisis. In his inaugural statement he urges family businesses to continue to demonstrate their strength and the quality of their governance systems.
"The global system is discovering that without deep-rooted human values, economic success cannot last," said Lombard, a sixth-generation member of family-owned Swiss private bank Lombard Odier.
Family businesses have the collective responsibility – now more than ever – to lead by example and demonstrate that it is "strong human values" that make economic success sustainable through the generations, he continued.
The FBN is a not-for-profit international network that is run by family businesses. Hans-Jacob Bonnier, executive vice-president of Swedish media group Bonnier, stepped down from the presidency after six years at a meeting last month.
The new president is a passionate supporter of the family-owned enterprise model and believes that long-standing family businesses should take solace from the fact that they have overcome crises in the past and emerged stronger.
Such thoughts were echoed by the second good news story to emerge this week. A new report, published by Barclays Wealth and the Economist Intelligence Unit, has given further backing to the family business model suggesting that privately-owned family businesses have leadership values and particular characteristics which may position them well to ride out the economic downturn.
According to the report, family businesses are less likely to thrive on risk – nothing new there – but are also less likely to enjoy "making money" compared to non-family businesses. What this points to is the family desire to preserve wealth rather than an aversion to profit per se.
The strong support network provided by family members and the values and ethos that they share are the two most important advantages of being a family business, say the report's authors. This backs up Thierry Lombard's belief that family businesses are rejecting the pure pursuit of money in favour of human values.
In addition, the report cites that only 10% of family businesses have or would consider selling their business, compared with 22% of non-family business owners. This figure shows a significant reduction when compared to Campden FB's recent Selling the Family Business survey.
Conducted last autumn, 52% of respondents to the Campden FB survey said they had planned for the possibility of selling the family business, of which 28% had made concrete plans as opposed to having hypothetical discussions (click here to view the survey in full).
Finally, the Barclays/EIU report identified family businesses as being less likely to make redundancies because of the importance they place on community support, seeking other cost-saving measures such as reducing salaries and suspending dividends.
Family businesses are not immune from the current economic environment – indeed, there are plenty who are having to make cutbacks, shed workers and reduce dividends; many are also going bankrupt – but there are plenty more who are succeeding. To ensure your family business is one of the latter, it is important to realise the inherent strengths available to you as a family business and build on them during the current downturn to help you prosper when the markets turn.