82nd Edition – August 30, 2020
The mind is a mill, the books we read are the grain brought to the mill, and our thoughts are the flour coming out of the mill. Therefore what you read you think and what you think you are.Jean-Jacques Cartier
1. Create, Don’t Imitate
There are three critical traits I look for in a CEO before I will work for them as a consultant. One of those traits is authenticity. I want to serve a CEO who has a dream he or she can never achieve, but is always striving to reach it through ingenuity and integrity based on a unique idea they developed before I came along.
I would have enjoyed working for the Cartier brothers, the third generation of the famed jewelry stores bearing their name.
The Cartier brothers never copied like their competitors. They created, and that’s what made the name endure for four generations and beyond.
I don’t believe in strategic planning — I mean the strategic planning where your company finds a small consulting company that imitates other firms by having you go through 2 days of fill-in-the-blank activities offsite and come up with a plan for the next year and then 5 more.
One of those exercises is a forced process of generating core values for the firm whether they are real or not.
Core values start with the founder – what she believes in that’s non-negotiable at all times and all places.
Louis-Francois Cartier told his son Alfred to, “Be very kind.” The Cartier founder did not have the resources to fill his jewelry store with expensive merchandise. But he could treat every customer with respect and with a special touch.
That one core value continued through the fourth generation and was a guiding light to every employee to ever work for the Cartier family whether in Paris, London, or New York.
3. Once Again, What is Grit and Determination?
We’ve learned a thing or two about mental toughness, grit, determination, and emotional health this year. This year has brought us a pandemic, a financial crisis, shortages, civil unrest including riots, and two sides of the political aisle focusing on ranting on the other side as opposed to being servants.
Consider the following:
- The European revolutions
- The Siege of Paris
- Outbreak of World War I
- Russian Revolution
- Wall Street collapse
- France invaded and the beginning of World War II
Yet, the Cartier family members from generation to generation possessed an intestinal fortitude that eluded many other stores owners who couldn’t stay the course.
4. Nepotism Works Except for When it Doesn’t
Several years ago, a CPA asked that I visit with one of his clients where the deceased father left his business to his son and daughter. The son ran the business and knew what he was doing. The daughter was clueless and was failing at her role in administration and bookkeeping.
The solution was simple. I recommended that the CEO pay his sister $60,000 annually to not show up. That worked.
Every business I serve is a family business, and rarely will you find a son, daughter, niece, or nephew on the payroll.
How did the Cartiers survive for so many generations? When Alfred took over the firm from his father (the founder), he had to buy the business – Alfred had to earn everything.
Alfred’s three boys eventually ran their own branches located in Paris, London, and New York. I’m not saying they would have failed had there been just one store, but space and distance certainly helped.
Accordingly, another family value emerged – unwavering collaboration and unity among the three brothers and branches they managed.
5. Family Business is Hard
I enjoyed reading The Cartiers: The Untold Story behind the Family Behind the Jewelry Empire.
What I found striking about this family was their ability to endure from one generation to the next. One HBR article suggests that only 10% of family businesses survive to the third generation.
My reading of this fascinating human story lead me to research a few HBR articles on family business – most are well-written and insightful. Just pick a couple to skim as you’ll find them relatable regardless of the type of business you work in.
- What You Can Learn from Family Business
- Avoid the Traps That Can Destroy Family Business
- 6 Traits of a Strong Family Business
- Leadership Lessons from a Great Family Business
- Does Your Family Business Have a Succession Plan?
- What Makes a Family Business Last?
- 4 Tensions in Family Businesses
- Conflicts That Plague Family Businesses
- Managing the Trickiest Parts of a Family Business
- A Crisis Playbook for Family Businesses
I cannot comment on it because I just bought it, but I’ll be skimming Borrowed From Your Grandchildren: The Evolution of 100-Year Family Enterprises over the next few weeks.
Thank You For Reading. Thank you for making this a successful newsletter.
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Always be learning.
Title Photo by Clotee Pridgen Allochuku.