The second generation - are they the real innovators?

Ruperty Murdoch - the ultimate second generationer  Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News / Getty Images

Ruperty Murdoch - the ultimate second generationer  Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News / Getty Images

Here’s an interesting question - are the real innovators in family businesses the second generation? There’s some pretty good evidence to suggest they often are - here’s a few examples.

Perhaps the greatest entrepreneur/innovator of the last fifty years from the second generation is the media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch took a newspaper publishing business started by his father in Australia and grew it into becoming one of the biggest and most successful media businesses in the world.

Purpose is the key to understanding successful second generationers...

Here’s some other, albeit less well known, second generation innovators. Andy Peykoff, who runs a mineral water company started by his father in California called Niagara. Andy took over from his father after he had a stroke in 2002 when revenues were around $25 million and grew the business to where it is today - one of the biggest bottled water companies in the US, with revenues approaching $2 billion.

Then there is Martine Reynaers, who took over her family business Reynaers after her father died in a car crash and her mother stepped aside. Today, the Belgian-based business is a €360 million construction materials group, with much of the growth taking place since Martine took over.

Second generation Jose Maria Ventura transformed the infant nutrition company Laboratorios Ordesa founded by his family in 1943 in Spain into a big multinational player. Hanni Toosbuy Kasprzak took over from her father who founded the Danish shoe company Ecco and made it into an even bigger company.

There are many other examples. But do they prove anything? After all, the above second generationers would most likely say they owe much to the first generation. But here’s one assumption that might be of interest. The old adage that necessity is the mother of invention, might be right in many cases, but clearly, as the above second generationers would indicate, not always.

All of these individuals probably would have been comfortably well off if they decided to be less ambitious. But, they appear to have been driven by achieving something bigger...they had a huge desire for purpose in their lives, and the best way of achieving this was to grow the family business.

Purpose, regardless of material wellbeing, is pretty much what all of us set out to achieve in life. Although, of course, when you have a family business to start with, it might be a bit easier to focus that purpose. Why would you want to look elsewhere to fulfill the desire for purpose when it’s right there in front of you?