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Family business leaders are the only role models left

When the recently elected British prime minister David Cameron was in the US last week he avoided a photo opportunity with one of the country's most prominent company leaders, writes David Bain.

Lloyd Blankstein, chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs, couldn't get close to the prime minister, according to a report in the New York Post, which added that Cameron's minders kept the Goldman head away from him.

Cameron, presumably, didn't want to be in any way associated with the man who runs a bank the public see as greedy and possibly even partly responsible for the financial meltdown of 2008/2009.
 
The prime minister and other world leaders would no doubt extend the same feelings to the outgoing chief executive of BP, Tony Hayward, or for that matter any member of the oil company's management team.
 
Bosses of some of the world's biggest publicly listed companies are less popular than ever in the more austere times we live in.
 
The public often see them as rewarding themselves massive salaries and bonuses during the good times and again during the bad times – effectively rewarding themselves for failure.
 
But such ire isn't being delved out for entrepreneurs and family businesses.
 
Indeed, one of the few businesses Cameron is visiting on his two-day trip to India this week is Infosys Technologies, founded by Indian entrepreneurs and now one of the country's most successful companies. Cameron's minders won't mind if the company's chairman and founder N R Narayana Murthy sits next to the British prime minister with photographers flashing away.
 
It might be stating the obvious, but family-business owners and entrepreneurs don't get rewarded for failure. They take huge risks to build businesses, and if they fail, their business goes under and they can lose everything. The public can identify with this.
 
And it doesn't matter how rich they are.
 
Witness the public esteem such individuals like Warren Buffett (pictured with 

Iscar chairman Eitan Wertheimer in which Buffett acquired an 80% stake in 2006) and Bill Gates are held in. Barak Obama doesn't avoid photo opportunities with these two. Gates was recently invited to the White House to help advise Obama on energy policy.

The same is also true with the UK entrepreneur Richard Branson. The billionaire ran in the recent London marathon, around about the same time Hayward was spotted sailing in a big yacht off the coast of the Isle of Wight. It's pretty obvious whom members of the public would identify with.
 
Family business owners and entrepreneurs aren't without their detractors. They can run autocratic fiefdoms, with little accountability. But many can often offer a more enlightened way of running businesses – at least enough for the likes of Blankstein, Hayward and their successors to take note.

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