Family Business Podcast

Family Business Myths

Family Business Myths

Family Business Myths

There are a number of family business myths that are often used to scare family businesses into some form of action. Typically, that is to the benefit of those that are using the statistic or myth. In this series of the show we look at some of the more common myths that we hear mentioned around family businesses.

The 70% Rule 

In this episode of the show I am joined by Dr Jim Grubman as we discuss an article he has written for International Family Offices. In this article he explores the so called “70% Rule”. This “rule” states that 70% of wealth transfers globally, fail.

In the show Jim highlights which studies, evidence and statistics went in to the publication of the “rule” and why it is essential for practitioners and the families that we serve to ensure that we are not repeating so called “rules” as a marketing or fear tactic.

We also look at what can be done in the future to ensure we are using accurate, robust and sufficiently well diversified research criteria to understand patterns rather than to create rules or myths that can be misleading.

** Listen to the episode here **

Useful Links

The articles that Jim references in the show can be found on his home page here or you can directly download the article using this link

Jim also references an article that he write for The Practitioner, a publication from The Family Firm Institute (FFI). You can access that article here.

The Myth of the Silver Spoon 

I am joined on this show by Kristin Keffeler as we discuss the myth of the silver spoon. This happens to be the title of Kristin’s excellent new book which you can find out more about here

In this really engaging conversation with Kristin we hear about her own story of growing up in a wealthy family.

Kristin discusses how our relationship with wealth is not the same as our relationship with money and that there are various forms of clutter that, if we can address, we can transform those relationships and become our true selves.

** Listen to the Episode here **

Useful Links 

You can find out more about Kristin by connecting with her on Linked In or by visiting her homepage here


Family Businesses are old fashioned!

In this episode I am joined by Fiona Graham from the Institute for Family Business as we discuss Family Business Week, some interesting research that will shortly be published and we debunk the myth that family businesses are old fashioned, “Mom and Pop Shops”.

We also explore the contribution that family businesses make to the UK and global economies and discuss the topics that have been front of mind for family businesses on the recent IFB Tour!

**Listen to the Episode here ** Useful Links

You can find out more about the IFB and their work by heading over to their homepage

You can follow Fiona on Twitter here: and email her, Her Linked In profile is

You can find out more about Family Business Week by heading over to and make sure you get involved by sharing your stories and celebrating your success.

Shirtsleeves to Shirtsleeves?

Linked to the episode with Jim above is this episode from February where the myth I look at is that only 3% of family businesses make it to the third generation. Now the statistics that have gone into this are in fact real statistics, however they look at the ownership of a very select group of businesses in a particular sector in a particular city in the US.

The study actually found that 30% made it through (not to) the first generation, 13% through the second generation and 3% beyond the third generation.

Given that the study focussed on a particular city and sector within that city, means that applying that as a rule across all family businesses across the globe is not particularly useful.

It is true that continuity, transition, succession or whatever you want to call it, is a challenge for family businesses, but this is also true of all businesses.

**Listen to the Episode here:** 

The statistics around startups is that around 90% fail within their first three years, the average lifespan of a business listed in the Fortune 500, on FTSE or Dow Jones is around 50 years so family businesses are not out of sync on this.

The Shirtsleeves to Shirtsleeves saying, although similarly used to refer to succession, actually relates to family wealth and is a far earlier myth than the statistics above.

The saying itself has versions across multiple cultures, so you would be forgiven in thinking that there must be some truth to it, but I suggest you consider it more as an old wives tale similar to the 5 second rule for food that has been dropped on the floor (for me this depends on what’s been dropped!), cracking your knuckles leading to arthritis or that bad things happen in three’s.

There are undoubtably families where the wealth hasn’t made it to or beyond the third generation, but it is not a rule. There are countless examples where this isn’t the case and wealth has continued well beyond the third generation.

Those families will have needed to do work in order to ensure that this is the case, but I dare say that has very little to do with the family business myth of shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves.

To my mind, it is far better for families to define their own measure of success and strive towards that than it is to worry about these family business myths such as succession stats or shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves.

As a fictitious example – if we take the case of a family who have, through meaningful discussion and over a period of time decided that the best way for them to achieve their measure of success is to sell to an Employee Ownership Trust.

The funds that can be released to the family (directly or via trust) then act as an enabler for future generations to follow their own dreams. The business is majority owned by the employee ownership trust and assuming it is run well, will help support the employees and their local community.

Compare this to the scenario where a member of the third generation feels compelled to take on the running of the business, as this is what is expected of them. They do so with the cloud of the three-generation rule hanging over them and them living with the stress and mental health impact of taking on a role they feel duty bound to do.

This then leading to the poor performance of the business and ultimately poor outcomes for all involved.

Extreme examples but one is deemed a success, the other a failure as far as the statistics are concerned.

Governance solves everything

The next family business myth I want to address is that “Governance fixes everything”.

I have to be careful here as I help family businesses to put Governance in place, but I do this through meaningful and detailed conversation rather than a ‘cut and paste’ Family Charter, for example.

The conversations that lead to positive and relevant governance is what is valuable, rather than the resulting documentation and yet the focus is on the tangible and sellable ‘Charter’.

In general the frameworks and models that are used to diagnose family business challenges can be similar. They can be exceptionally useful in helping to understand what is happening, but any answers and solutions lie within you and your family.

Sometimes you might need help with that and there are experts able to do that, but finding what works for your family requires an appreciation that each is unique and therefore there is no cookie cutter solution or copy and paste outcome that is likely to be impactful over time.

Share this Episode

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Like this article?

Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on Linkdin
Share on pinterest
Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment