Successful Family Firms Shoot For The Moon

Liz Breiter
May 18, 2023

Family-owned businesses and family firms have a secret weapon – given their concentrated ownership, they can take a long-term view. This long-term view unlocks unlimited possibilities for families to make a lasting impact in both business and society. One such opportunity this perspective provides is for family owners and operators to intentionally choose whether to approach their business with an entrepreneurial mindset.

An entrepreneurial mindset is best reflected in John F. Kennedy’s famous speech: “We chose to go to the moon. We chose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” An entrepreneurial mindset is focused on seeing possibilities – possibilities that exist or can be created – and having the courage to venture into the unknown, solve the hardest problems, and create a paradigm shift in how business and society operate.

Let’s take a step back and reflect: What is the most exciting version of the future that you imagine your business can play a critical role in unlocking and why? Write it down. Take the next step in bringing this mindset and your vision into your business. Share it as a draft to iterate on with your board, your management team, and, once ready, share it with your entire organization. This last part is particularly important. Each person in your organization should understand, connect with, and find inspiration from your company’s vision. People are the heartbeat of every organization. It is through our people that problems are solved. It was through our predecessors’ ethos and sheer determination that we were able to go to the moon. It is also through our people that a robust foundation is laid with the proper scaffolding to enable the execution of this mindset. In envisioning your future, consider:

Culture: What pieces of your culture do you need to create or enhance? Is failure tolerated – where and when is it ok to fail? To not fail? Are failures…celebrated?

People: What values are critical to have in a culture that takes an entrepreneurial mindset? Ensuring you hire, develop, retain, and incentivize your best resource – your people – to advance achieving the vision and goals fueled by an entrepreneurial mindset is critical.

Goal Setting: What is your process for setting goals? Does this include both stretch goals and targets? How are these goals communicated throughout the organization and what supporting meetings are in place to review performance against the plan?

Reporting: Do you have a robust infrastructure in place to efficiently view the performance against the plan? Is it clear ‘what good looks likes?’ Is the reporting tailored to different levels across the organization in support of driving the right follow-on actions (e.g., specific dashboard views for the management team, middle management, and individual contributors)?

Leadership: Do we have the right leaders in place who will challenge and support the family, the board, the management team, and the employees to have and execute an entrepreneurial mindset?

A key advantage of family-owned businesses and family firms is that they can take a long-term view. Family business owners should leverage this perspective to benefit both business and society while motivating the next generation of leaders and extending the entrepreneurial spirit across generations. As Norman Vincent Peale said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Let Wingspan help your family unleash and activate an entrepreneurial culture.

Want more content? Read more Wingspan Perspectives.


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About Liz Breiter

Liz’s experience growing up in a founder-family and working at breakthrough technology companies sparked her passion for creating intergenerational advancement. She graduated with honors from Harvard Business School and USC.