Managing for the Long Run

Nov 14, 2007

In November 2007, SFU’s CIBC Centre for Corporate Governance and CMA Centre for Change Management hosted Danny Miller and Isabelle Le Breton-Miller in public, faculty, and doctoral seminars on their recently published book, Managing for the Long Run. Danny and Isabelle presented the findings of their research into a distinct set of Fortune 1000 companies with revenues over $1 billion, that had been leaders, either nationally or internationally, for more than 20 years (the average being 104 years): family-controlled businesses. Their presentations revealed many reasons into why these companies have been able to succeed for generations; including a focus on the long-term and accountability to stakeholders other than stockholders.

Their research showed that these successful businesses implemented strategies based on four essential pillars: continuity; community; connection; and command. Continuity refers to the pursuit of a substantive, competency-based mission. Community refers to the selection and nurturing of handpicked personnel. Connection refers to the strong ties formed by these firms with customers, suppliers, and partners. Command refers to the power of family executives to stay at the helm for extended periods thereby ensuring that their long-term plans were executed successfully. The authors explained that unique combinations of the strategic elements were applied in each of the businesses that they had researched. Their presentations also revealed the dangers of over-investing in one element at the expense of other, more appropriate, elements.

The different audiences with whom Danny and Isabelle shared their research inspired various topics of discussion. The topics raised in the public seminar included the corporate governance implications of certain family-controlled business strategies; and the lessons for general management that could be developed as a result of this research. The conversation in the doctoral seminar explored management, succession, and leadership power issues particular to family-controlled businesses. The discussions facilitated by the authors gave deep and rich insight into their research, and sparked many ideas about new directions for future research into family-owned businesses.