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  • Writer's pictureEric Williams

Selling a multi-generational business

One of my favorite cities in the world is Vienna, Austria - it's a place that appreciates design and craftsmanship, with many businesses that are centuries old. Following is a video from Monocole Films that features three family-owned businesses that have been around for 100-200+ years:

  • Muhlbauer Hat, founded in 1903

  • Rudolf Scheer, founded in 1816

  • J&L Lobmeyr, founded in 1823

I would suggest that what's most remarkable about all three of these businesses isn't their high level of craftsmanship (although it is best-in-class), nor even their longevity (even though few businesses survive that long), but rather that they continue to be successfully run family businesses.

There's an old adage "shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations" which describes the common circumstance of an ambitious founder of a company who starts with nothing and builds a great company, but by the third generation the business and family are no longer successful. There are many theories as to why. Some don't require too much imagination. For example, if the founder had three children, and each of them had three children, and then their offspring had three children, at the third generation the founders great grandchildren number 27 people. Not all of those great grandchildren will likely want to be involved in the business, and this can create some challenging family and wealth succession dynamics. There is also the belief that often the children and grandchildren of the founder have experienced family wealth and become more entitled and less motivated. If you own a business that has been in your family, or that you are hoping your children or grandchildren will take over, I wish you success and that your business will survive as long as the businesses in the below video. However, if there aren't highly motivated heirs, maybe a better path is to sell the company. If you want to help your heirs, perhaps use some of your newly-gained liquidity to fund their dreams and entrepreneurial ventures. Please contact Codiligent business brokers if you'd like more information about selling your family business.


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