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It Does The Business Good Philanthropy could help your family as much as it benefits others.

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The first bullet point on Fleeger's Pro Hardware's mission statement, "We strive to have relationships that are open, truthful, understanding, courteous and loyal with each other, our customers and our community," telegraphs a great deal about the company's commitment to its community-and offers a tangible goal that all family businesses would be wise to reach for.

Fleeger's Pro Hardware, a 55-year-old family-owned hardware store in Toledo, Ohio, has articulated what family firms know almost instinctively: Family businesses are different; as such, relationships with their communities are critically important. "Community relations is not just part of their job-it's fundamental to their existence," says Craig Aronoff, director of the Cox Family Enterprise Center at Kennesaw State University in Marietta, Georgia.

Family businesses' emotional commitments to their communities stem from their longevity. Parents, grandparents and the present generation typically live in the community or in one nearby. If everything goes according to plan, future generations will stay in the area as well. That longevity creates a connection with the public that family businesses can't afford to ignore. In an age when competition is fierce-and more far-reaching than ever, thanks to the Internet-family businesses need to seize the opportunity to create the deeper bonds with their customers that local involvement offers.

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