Family businesses aren't known for their longevity. In fact, only about 10 percent make it into the third generation. So when they reach 25, 50, even 75 years old, it's cause for celebration. But milestone anniversaries are more than just a good reason to party. They have a positive, cohesive effect on employees and family members. And they provide unparalleled opportunity to reflect on the past, take stock of the present and look toward the future.
Milestone anniversaries are moments of extreme satisfaction internally. "When I hear family business owners discussing these anniversaries, they most often talk about what it means to employees," says Kelin Gersick, senior partner at Lansberg, Gersick & Associates, a New Haven, Connecticut, research and consulting firm specializing in family business. The way the organization celebrates often reflects the family's desire to share the satisfaction of having "made it" with its "family" of employees. Fernley & Fernley Inc., a Philadelphia-based firm providing management services to national industry associations and professional societies, celebrated its 110th year by holding a dinner-dance for employees and their spouses or significant others. "It was a glorious evening," says president G.A. Taylor Fernley.
Last year, when the Furman family celebrated its 75th year packing Furman Foods Inc.'s Italian and tomato products in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, it expanded the term "associates" to all those involved with the company. "We invited our suppliers, bankers, lawyers, research collaborators at Penn State University, state legislators and regulators, retired employees, families of employees, and the community to join us in a country fair-type celebration," says president David Geise. "The employees, especially, were thrilled that so many people were interested in touring the plant. And for the 60 or so family members who attended--the largest number of family members we've ever gotten together for any event--it was a source of great pride."