Family businesses are all about the long term, or are they?

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You might have felt family businesses were about the long-term when it comes to achieving their goals. Certainly much more than non-family businesses. But that’s not how most people think. In fact, most feel that non-family businesses are more about the long-term, says a new survey.

Released last week, the Edelman Trust Barometer found that 45% of those surveyed thought that non-family businesses were more committed to long-term thinking, whereas only 21% thought family businesses were more committed to long-term thinking.

That might come as a bit of a shock to many family businesses, which might have felt they’d won the argument when it comes to their commitment to long-term thinking. Even more so given that the same survey found they were more trusted than the business world as a whole. But the figures suggest that trust in business isn’t necessarily connected to their commitment to long-term thinking.

When it came to innovation, family businesses were viewed as much less innovative than non-family businesses. Here the findings are more understandable. Whether family businesses are innovative or not, and many argue they are very innovative, family businesses have to compete with the tech sector here, which is perceived to be much more innovative.

Family businesses also scored less well on financial success, compared with their non-family counterparts. Again, this appears to be at odds with the findings on long-term thinking. Is it not the case that financial success might be more linked to short-term thinking, rather than a long-term approach to managing a business? Maybe not, according to the Edelman study.

Of course, Edelman itself is a family business. Set up by Daniel Edelman in 1952 and now run by his son, Richard. So the firm has skin in the game when it comes to family businesses. There’s an interview with Richard by family business professor Andrew Keyt on the Trust Barometer’s findings here.

The barometer, which is the second one Edelman has done on family businesses and trust, surveyed 15,000 individuals across 12 countries in June this year.