Since 1435, the Mazzei family has owned the Fonterutoli estate in Tuscany, producing wine for an astounding 24 generations. One of the most acclaimed names in Italian wine, Marchesi Mazzei is also one of the oldest family businesses in Italy.
While there is no dynasty spanning hundreds of years in our business, we did gather an impressive group of multigenerational enterprises for this issue’s “All In The Family” Father’s Day tribute to family operations in eyewear. One has been in New York City for more than a century. “When people hear we are a five-generation family business in the Lower East Side of Manhattan for over 100 years they almost fall off their chair!” Zachary Moscot told us about the company founded in 1915 by his great-great grandfather Hyman Moscot.
That is no small feat given the rates at which family-owned businesses survive-30% from founder to the second generation, 12% into the third generation and only 3% operating into the fourth generation and beyond, according to the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship.
Candid comments similar to the one above combined with the secrets to success shared by the seven multigenerational family eyewear companies we interviewed for this special feature revealed a number of characteristics that they all seem to share. Perhaps these similarities are among the factors contributing to the longevity of these companies.
Knowing when to talk shop and when to revert to being just relatives appears integral to balancing business success with family sanity. Understanding one another’s abilities as well as their flaws is another key trait. Always telling the truth, because it’s “easier to remember than a lie,” is another foundational tenet, as is fairness in decision-making.
Similarly, Forbes also cited “ethical standards” in its article on “Five Ways to Keep a Family-Owned Business ‘In The Family’ For Generations,” while adding a few more-not sacrificing the long-term well-being of the company for short-term gain, a powerful internal culture, clear means for conflict resolution and families infusing their values into their businesses.
After reading this issue’s article honoring family eyewear businesses, you’ll also discover these and other parallels that contribute to success. In fact, they are often the same factors that would make any business thrive, whether family-owned or not.
Perhaps your multigenerational success story has already begun. To paraphrase the old Taoist saying about a journey of one thousand miles starting with a single step, “A dynasty of a hundred years begins with the first generation.”
That’s exactly what the winemaking Mazzei family of Tuscany did…nearly 600 years ago.
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