How do family businesses survive?

Statistics show that only 30% of family businesses make it to generation two and a mere 3% still generate profits in generation three. The adage, Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations describes the failure of family operated businesses by the time grandchildren take over.

Some of the issues evident in failing multi-generational businesses are material gain without personal investment, a sense of entitlement, unwillingness to tolerate frustration, and lack of education and skills needed to handle a job.

Bridging generational change in a family business requires deliberate, long term planning. Preparing and educating future generations for guidance and stewardship is part of this planning.

Boarding schools with work programs can be invaluable in perpetuating a family business. From laundry to lawns; from horses to hospitality—work programs at boarding schools help students build skills that last a lifetime and teach other important life lessons essential for success.

At French Camp Academy, we make the lessons of work an intentional part of our school. We want work and its lessons to shape who our students become.

French Camp Academy

School work program

We recently surveyed students and alumni and we’d like to share how they talk and think about the importance and value of their work experiences:

Work helped me mature. My supervisor talked and acted to help me. Students build relationships with positive, influential mentors. Learning the care and feeding of a horse may not be as fun as saddling up and riding, but it instills a sense of service and concern for others.

Learning to be on time and doing a job well was good for me. Students learn to be punctual, stay focused to the task at hand, and to go beyond the basics, whether they are cleaning toilets or editing photographs.

Work was challenging. At first I failed, but now I succeed. Perseverance is hard. In an era of quick fixes and fast solutions, the concept of continually training to overcome challenges is mostly left on the athletic field. Listening and learning from others, repeating a task, and redoing it until something is right is an important life skill.

Work taught me leadership. Learning a skill well, developing the trust of a supervisor, being intuitive and responsible builds a reputation for leadership that transfers to other areas.

Work is good and rewarding. A sense of accomplishment builds confidence and contentment. Knowing your work on a new stone wall that not only prevents erosion but enhances the landscape, brings a sense of fulfillment.

Work is not just for me, but to serve others. An important lesson is that we live in community and through work we serve others. Having a servant’s attitude will be a valuable asset no matter what someone does in his life.

Boarding school work programs add value to students, families and the potential growth of a family businesses.

Work brings a sense of accomplishment, opens career paths, and develops leadership skills that translate into confidence, service, and a healthy contentment with life. Work lessons are life lessons. Boarding school alumni carry, and refer, to their boarding school work lessons every day as adults.

Second and third generation family businesses do not need to lose their value and influence in their communities. Helping their young people share the vision of past generations may only be a short distance away at a boarding school that works.