Why does the advertising industry have so few family businesses?

The Family Firm Institute estimate that family businesses contribute 70% of the global GDP.

The Harvard Business School say more than half the US workforce are employed in family organisations.

So why is the advertising industry so rarely a family affair?

As our kids grow older the inevitable question of coming to work for their dad crops up.
Now while we all want to help our not-so-little darlings out as much as we can and give them a leg up the ladder, it is something I’m resisting.

Why is this I wonder?
Well apart from the sheer dread of having to work with someone you used to change the nappies of, it isn’t something that has ever appealed. This probably works both ways in my case.

There was never any desire when starting our business 13 years ago to create some kind of legacy to hand down to the next generation.
I also dread to think of the dynamic it would create within the office.
It simply wouldn’t be fair on everyone else in the agency and could easily destroy client relationships.

There are very few family run firms in the advertising world (none of any note really spring to mind) and the ones I do know of sound like a nightmare to work in.
Husband and wife teams discussing who to discipline over dinner or errant offspring marching round the place with a not so subtle undertone of “Do you know who I am?”.

Maybe as agency heads we get too scarred by the reality of this business and want something better/different for our offspring.
I like to think though that we operate in an arena that is difficult to teach and certainly isn’t in the genes.
An industry that is forever evolving and is constantly hungry for new ideas needs a constant flow of fresh blood and differing perspectives from different backgrounds.

More likely though we’re in it for the pay day and aim to one day sell up rather than pass it down.
Oops, sorry kids.

So, what does make a great family business?
The oldest family firm in America originated in Constantinople almost 400 years ago (1623) and is now controlled by its 14th generation.
It has survived the fall of empires, a move across continents, wars and a depression.

As a manufacturing business it can be taught, even though the ‘secret recipe’ is only passed down to family members after they show enough maturity and commitment to the company.

The company is cymbal maker, Zildjian.

But just because you’re a Zildjian (the name actually translates as son of a cymbal maker), doesn’t mean you automatically get a seat at the top table (or drum kit).

Firstly, you need a college degree, preferably in business.
You need to carry out an internship at the company while at college.
Then you need to get a job elsewhere.
Finally, if you do join, you cannot report to another family member and spouses are strictly forbidden from getting involved.

The saying goes that blood is thicker than water.
But if you want to keep the business flowing, best to keep the blood off the carpet.