CHAPTER 6The Generative Alliance: Building and Sustaining a Values-Based Culture

When you enter a family business, you experience a distinctive culture, a collective personality that arises from the values and legacy of the founding family. Culture refers to the look and feel of the environment, the rituals, stories, common activities, and traditions of a group. You see pictures, charts of achievements, events, and inspirational quotes. There is also the style of meetings, how the space is arranged and feels, how people are addressed and recognized, and what personal achievements are acknowledged.

Culture shapes the unique identity of a business. It is not what the business does but how it does it, what it values, and how the members of the business relate to each other. A family enterprise is strongly identified with its founding family and traditions; therefore, it tends to have a strong and well-defined culture. At the foundation of the culture, there are values about product quality and reliability, relationships among employees, how people are treated, compensated, and promoted, and what sorts of behavior are allowable. This chapter looks the elements found in the cultures of family enterprises that seem to be linked to their adaptability and long-term success.

The culture of a family enterprise begins with the business style and financial values of the founder that are then sustained and expressed by each successive generation. They achieve this while also remaining a ...

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