Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

Family businesses and the brand


(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

I’ve had a lot to do with family businesses, in India of course, but also in Britain, Spain and quite a few other places. In fact, I come from a family business. My father was head of a transport business and all his brothers (my uncles) and, maybe more important, all the brothers’ wives were in it too.

The wives didn’t work in it, of course, not in those days, but they were pretty good at being involved (and sometimes stirring up trouble — ‘he earns more than you’ or even ‘his office is bigger than yours’). The trouble with family businesses is that not every member of the family is suitable material. It isn’t just an issue of intelligence; it also has to do with motivation, temperament, age and a whole variety of other factors.

I had a very good friend who became head of a large family business and he was haunted by the idea of heredity. Would he have been good enough for the job if it hadn’t been for his name, he thought? The business was publicly quoted, the family only had a protected minority interest but, in the end, it was taken over and he left. Thrown out? Not quite; but he wasn’t welcome to stay. Look at the Murdochs today. It seems to be a repetition of the same old story.

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