Business is a funny thing. There are companies that go public and go gangbusters, and there are others that stay private and do some amazing things. It really all depends on what the vision is for the company. If you want to build a multi-national, going public might make a lot of sense. On the other hand, you can build a pretty amazing brand and still keep it in the family.
Some families have done a pretty good job of keeping it in the family even after going public. Until recently, Budweiser was run by a Busch family member, Ford still has a Ford on the board. Roy Disney departed the board at Disney with a little fanfare yet his holding company Shamrock, still has a hand in the game.
In some industries, going public or being bought by a public company has put the business at a significant disadvantage. Recently Peavey was highlighted in a magazine for staying private while the competition was gobbled up by public companies and had to raise prices to meet the new overhead. Peavey is a success story of the American Dream to the letter.
Peavey started out with the owner building amps because he wasn’t good enough to play in the band unless he built the amps. Eventually he got serious and making amps and loudspeakers and the name is known by everyone who has ever once thought about making it in the music business.
Dunlop Guitar is another company that has stayed the family course and done quite well. Jim Dunlop Senior, the founder, still has some involvement, but the day to day management has been passed to his son, Jimmy. Just like Peavey, Dunlop is a name in the music business that everyone has come to know and love. Both Peavey and Dunlop have spawned an entire industry of clones. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
There are other names that have made it for generations as family companies. Not as many in the US as have in Europe or Asia because of the American Culture. We don’t value the family heritage or business like Europeans and Asians do. Maybe that is why Dunlop has worked, Jim Senior is Scottish.
Companies like Budweiser, Ferrari, Disney, Ford and Wal Mart still have a significant portion of the company owned by family members. For many it is strictly an investment that helps maintain their lifestyle. For others, they are still involved protecting the family name.
Where do you want your business to go. Bill Gates protected his equity in Microsoft and then pledged to give most of it away. Who knows where Mark Zuckerberg will take FaceBook, or will he wake up one day like many CEO’s and find out he no longer owns the company.
Even Steve Jobs was bumped from Apple to come back and save the day.
What is your plan for your business? Do you have one? I enjoy what I do and have no desire to give up the reins anytime soon. That said I also don’t have a plan for the business after I am done. Clearly something I need to work on. What are you going to do?