"Every successful business is, in a way, a small miracle. Family companies that are successfully passed down from one generation to another and continue to thrive represent an even greater achievement. The low survival rate of family firms is well known. Less than 30 percent of family firms last into the second generation and, of these, only about 10 percent make it to the third.2 Yet some of the world's greatest companies have managed to reinvent the miracle in every generation.
The family owners of these enterprises overcome numerous obstacles—wars and depressions, natural catastrophes, adverse shifts in markets, the sudden deaths of key leaders—in order to continue building on what their forebears have bequeathed to them. These robust organizations include European companies such as BMW in Germany, Lego in Denmark, Ikea in Sweden, and Beretta in Italy; Japanese companies such as Matsushita and the Kikkoman Corp.; and privately held firms in the US such as S.C. Johnson, Cargill, Levi Strauss, Mars, Bechtel, Hallmark Cards, Milliken, and many that are publicly traded but family established, such as Ford Motor, Campbell Soup, and the New York Times" (adapted from Succeeding Generations: Realizing the Dream of Families in Business, Harvard Business School Press, 1999).