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On the difference between inheriting and borrowing... or on families with family businesses.

Countless bookshelves can be filled with fascinating stories about families with family businesses. The first generation establishes it, the second generation expands it, and the third generation either devours or ruins it. And – frequently with deafening arguments – ruin themselves in the process. Thomas Mann’s novel, published in 1901, chronicling the decline of the nineteenth-century German merchant family ‘Buddenbrooks’ is a classic for good reason.

On a global scale, ninety percent of companies are owned by one or more families. Think of Heineken, SHV, C&A, De Kuyper, Swinkels, Oosterberg and Steensma (not related...). To name a few Dutch examples.

The phrase ‘A family company is not a business you inherit from your ancestors, it is an enterprise you borrow from your children’, holds tremendous value.

Last April, the Economist wrote a rather pleasant article on the pros and cons of following in your parents’ footsteps. The demand for coaching for families with family businesses, also in my practice, has only increased. Succession issues – making the transition to future generations – can be a trigger here. Development of sustainably successful governance. The Family Statute. All of these are recurring themes.

Warren Buffett called it ‘The lucky sperm club’. Referring to the rare members of a family running a family business who possess and have developed exceptional leadership talent. The rarity of this combination is perhaps one of the realities hardest to face.

It is well worth your energy, time, patience, and attention to reflect on these issues. To make the family business a source of inspiration and fun. For this generation and the generations to come.

To avoid the family business from collapsing due to gos, lack of self-knowledge, greed, jealousy or other understandable human emotions that are not kept in check.

Today, there are many resources available to assist families: lawyers, corporate finance consultants, strategy consultants, tax specialists, bankers and so on. I narrow my role to being a coach and executive search consultant for family members as well as families with family businesses, and to the coordination of all disciplines this involves.

Please feel welcome to share your thoughts on this topic, or any other topic that you wish to share with me.

In confidence, without mentioning names, I can share stories about families and family businesses that I have often been involved with for many years.

Warm regards,



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