Family businesses can be strange animals. I like to joke that the best thing about a family business is being able to work with your family and the worst thing about a family business is being able to work with your family.
There is a lot to like about a family business and there is no doubt how important they are to the Michigan and U.S. economy. Family businesses are often referred to as the backbone to the U.S. economy. According to the Family Business Advisor, it’s hard to ignore the importance and contribution of the family business:
• Approximately 90% of all businesses in the United States are family owned
• Family businesses employ over 60% of the U.S. workforce
• Family businesses represent 64% of our gross domestic product.
• 35% of the businesses on the S&P 500 are actually family controlled
Family businesses face the same challenges as business in general and while the founders of a family business proceed with good intentions, simple resistance to sound succession planning has resulted in:
• Only 30% of family businesses survive to the second generation
• Only 12% to the third generation
• By the fourth generation only 3% of family businesses continue to exist.
We talk a lot about succession planning in our company and I like to think that the more you talk about something, the more likely something will happen. Well last month we welcomed two fourth generation family members to our management team, my son Christopher Zehnder and my nephew Nick Shelton. Both grew up around and worked in our family business. Chris graduated from Northwood Univesity in 2008 then lived and worked inNashville, TN, and Nick graduated this spring from Valparaiso University with his Masters. Both are in our Leader-in-Training program exposed to various aspects of our company. For now, Chris has been assigned to Elf Hollow Café at Zehnder’s Splash Village and Nick has been assigned to our championship golf course, The Fortress.
As our family business story continues, we trust both Chris and Nick will continue the Tradition of Good Taste that began with our family, four generations ago.
From our family to yours,
Al Zehnder, CEO of Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth