For 27 years, Family Business Magazine, a sister publication of Directors 8c Boards, has provided advice and guidance on leadership, management, and governance of family business. In the United States, family businesses account for 60% of total employment, 65% of all wages paid, and 78% of all new jobs. In addition to the many privately owned family companies, approximately 60% of all U.S. public companies are family-controlled, and in aggregate, family owned and controlled businesses account for half of the U.S. GDP. Outside the U.S. these percentages are even higher, with four out of five businesses worldwide owned by families.
This past April, 280 family members from 90 family businesses gathered at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg, Fla., for Family Business Magazine's 14th Transitions Conference. For the past seven years we have held one conference on the East Coast, Transitions East, and one on the West Coast, Transitions West. In addition, last year we began a Transitions conference in Mexico City, and this year we are adding a Family Business Wealth conference in Chicago focused on "Wealth Generation and Preservation Across Generations." Our conferences both encourage and facilitate family-to-family dialogue, and our participants' willingness to share their stories enables them to learn from one another's experiences.
This year's Transitions East conference focused on "Family Dynamics and Successor Development." Topics covered included accessing liquidity for the family business, creating effective family employment policies, and engaging the next generation with the family enterprise. For the past several years I have had the opportunity and pleasure of closing the Transitions conferences. Here are a few of the lessons we learned relating to the governance of a family business.