The success of family companies turns much of modern business teaching on its head

18. April 2015

Date: 18-04-2015
Source: The Economist
Subject: Management theory: Survival of the fittest

THE MODERN THEORY of the firm is the theory of the public company: obsessed with questions such as transaction costs but blind to questions of transmitting wealth to future generations. In numerical terms, this emphasis on the public company is clearly a mistake. Its triumph is limited to the Anglo-Saxon world. The economies of most of the rest of the world—developed as well as emerging—continue to be dominated by family-focused businesses that control a wide range of companies, not just individual firms.

It is also out of date. Talk of the triumph of the Anglo-American public company might have made sense in the post-war era when the British empire still had a glow and the American Century was in full swing (though family companies continued to flourish in both countries). It makes far less sense in an increasingly integrated Europe and in rapidly emerging markets. The world’s fastest-growing region, Asia, is dominated by powerful business houses run by families. Though some of these could no doubt benefit from more focus, a significant number are Schumpeterian entrepreneurs destined for success, thanks to a rare combination of risk-taking and long-termism. Read the rest of this entry »