I live up the road from Whistling Straits, the venue for the 2015 PGA Championship, won by Jason Day among some incredible golfing performances on one of golf’s most beautiful courses. My extended family was involved as staff and volunteers. Many of our friends walked alongside their favorite golfers, celebrating the locale and taking joy in the beauty of their home region getting national attention. Many of us kept the radio or television on from beginning to end. Herb Kohler of the Kohler Co., and the visionary behind the championship courses and the high-end tourism in my area, made a few television appearances. He epitomizes a privately-owned family business deep into its fourth generation of leadership. A legacy like this is rare, but not quite so rare among the businesses and industries that line the western shoreline of Lake Michigan. The Kohler legacy is a standout among many families in my part of the world that endeavor for:
- A family legacy.
- The long-term.
- The well-being of employees and their families.
- Civic engagement.
- Land and facility stewardship
These values do not match well with much of the American business landscape. But consider the many companies that bolted into existence and disappeared with an eye on the short-term while these family-owned industries keep plugging along, changing more slowly and with a longer-term view in mind. Enron anyone? How about some investments in big box stores?
Family-owned businesses get it wrong all the time. They fail spectacularly too. However, if you care about these five values – values that can easily be anchored in Christian faith and living – then we might note that the best at demonstrating them come from multi-generation, family-owned, deeply-rooted businesses. Might this be because leaders are surrounded in a culture that they cannot escape, not even at the dinner table, not even when they go out to eat, and not even when the family reunion is passing out corn on the cob? Family members and friends might chafe at being swallowed up and not feeling like an individual, and yet, given time and the opportunity to learn how to lead, so often they return to bring that new generation of leadership with a freshened vision.
Companies like these are modern expressions of the Asaph’s prayer in Psalm 78:
I will utter hidden things,
things from of old—
what we have heard and known,
what our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from our children;
we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power and the wonders he has done…..
so the next generation will know them, even the children yet to be born
and they in turn will tell their children.
If these five values call to you, deep in your bones, then get thyself to a Convene Team.