From family management to business institutionalization

12.10.2022 5 Min Read
Nino Gventsadze

management consultant, Business Strategy

From family management to business institutionalization

Many years ago I started my career in one of the Georgian family businesses. The first emotional shock for me was that, despite the scale of the company, it did not have an executive director, and the founder fully combined the management function. When I say "management function" I don't just mean setting strategic priorities, but deciding which blinds to buy for a particular departmental space (Like, literally).

As a result of micromanaging, protracted decisions accumulated endlessly in the form of delays and tensions. Accumulated to do list on the desktops of employees, accumulated on our tables and in the rooms.

Then I discovered that the premise of micromanaging was not the desire to control all decisions as such, but the fear of failing a the "business raised like a child", which ultimately cost employees time, energy and nerves in daily work, and in the long run - the company's efficiency.

Then for the first time I had a question:

Where is the tipping point for the family business when the founders have to question the old ways and start thinking about institutionalizing the business?

What distinguishes a family business from other types of business?

Generally speaking, it's a business owned and operated by one or more family members (Handler, 1989; Hollander & Elman, 1988). In other definitions, a family business is “an organization in which one or two family members influence the direction of the organization through a combination of managerial roles and ownership” (Davis and Tagiuri, 1982).

Family business is one of the most widespread forms of business in the modern world. They make up a significant part of the GDP of different countries. For example, the share of family businesses in US GDP is 64%.

In Europe and the USA, there are many large family businesses that have gone through a difficult path of development and have become well-known and successful companies. The best examples of such business in Europe are wine companies from Italy and France such as Antinori, Frescobaldi, Bollinger and others.

What makes a family business successful?

Compared to other businesses, the main advantage of a family business is the strong personal ties between family members and the shared values that flow from them. These values, together with the sense of pride associated with the business, create a high degree of loyalty and are often the key to the success of these businesses in difficult times.

While managers of various businesses often have to implement complex and innovative initiatives to motivate employees, members of family businesses are very enthusiastic. Thanks to the feeling that the business is a symbol of the family and serves as a continuation of its name, even working overtime makes it enjoyable.

The "immortality" of the surname creates the basis for relative stability in the long term. However, it should be noted that the same factor can become an obstacle to a flexible response to changes in the external environment.

The success of these enterprises is also expressed in financial terms, in particular, such enterprises are often characterized by reduced costs, since, unlike other employees, family members often agree to financial “sacrifices” for their business and, if necessary, for example, in case of problems with cash flows, they accept relatively low wages.

What threatens the success of the family business?


The challenges facing today's family business are more complex than ever. In the face of fierce competition, rapidly changing political and economic conditions, they have to fight for their survival and success in the same way as their competitors, and in some cases even more painfully.

Family businesses must balance the psychological parameters that are characteristic of them, in which members of the same family work together. The main task in this dimension is to maintain a balance between business and family affairs - family conflicts affect everyday business decisions, and business problems are often discussed at the family dinner table.

Because most family businesses start with little human and financial resources, long-term strategic planning—the (re)formation of various systems, structures, and management styles—becomes vital at a certain stage of growth.

The need to reform management style often entails a change in business manager. For the owner of a family business, transferring control to a “successor” is a big problem.

However, founders are often "lone wolves" who face business challenges alone, no matter how serious they may be. They are often skeptical of people who come "from outside" and receive professional advice from them, as they tend to do business "within the family." While this approach is understandable, it can be misleading in some cases. External consultants with extensive experience in managing a complex business development process are an important support for a family business when it needs to transform and move to a new stage of development.

Relationship between founder and business

According to various studies, there are several types of founders depending on their attitude towards the family business.

(1) For the founder, the business is both his "child" and "mistress" - the main object of the founder's interest is the business and its "well-being", and all employees are perceived as tools to achieve this goal. Any decision arises only in the mind of the founder and is carried out only with his permission, since there is a fear that others may harm the interests of the business. Once an employee shows a desire for more power, he or she is likely to leave the company. Such enterprises most often cease to exist after the death of the founder, because no one but them knows what this business was created for.

(2) For the founder, the business is a continuation of himself, the realization of "I" - the entire success of the business is the personal success of the founder. In these cases, it is much more interesting that the business survives even after the death of the founder to perpetuate his name.

Statistics show that 30% of family businesses successfully make it to the second generation, 13% to the third generation, and only 3% to the fourth. Therefore, for the long-term success of a business, much more is needed than selfless care for the company, “raised like a child” by the founder, and making all decisions yourself.

The Path to Business Institutionalization

In the wake of business growth against the backdrop of complex family relationships, it is a wise decision to institutionalize it, which means managing a business in accordance with certain standards and rules and freeing the management process from specific individuals. Such a system allows the business to become more adapted to rapidly changing environmental factors.

It is important that family members trust each other and be ready to let go of the reins of day-to-day operations without fear of being sidelined.

Such a transition becomes much easier if appropriate strategic objectives are defined and roles and responsibilities are assigned. The new environment also defines the role of family members/founders, they remain in the role of owners and participate in making important strategic decisions, although they are much less or not involved in the day-to-day management of the company.

This situation creates an opportunity for managers in the face of declining personal interests to make the business more flexible and competitive.

Featured Insights

Have you ever thought that a cup of coffee with a colleague in the office in the morning, questions about yesterday evening's news or plans for the day can affect your efficiency during the day?

What answers do we get when we ask our team members about the behaviors and actions the company uses to improve the organizational environment and improve employee performance? Most of you will probably answer: team building that took place last year or is planned in the near future, monthly meetings to check the current status of projects, corporate events, trainings, etc.

Despite this, few employees will be able to name rituals that exist undeclared in the company. Using them, smart executives effortlessly:

  • Increase employee engagement and efficiency
  • Create strong bonds between company team members
  • Stimulate desired behavior
  • Reduce stress levels

Increasing Engagement

Rituals help team members translate values into their daily activities. Returning to the coffee cup example, having an honest conversation with a colleague early in the day about plans or tasks for the day can be an incentive to be more active and bold in group discussions throughout the day, as well as being more receptive to other people's opinions.

Organizations that incorporate their declared values into daily rituals attract people whose values these rituals correspond to. On the contrary, interaction problems often arise in organizations where declared values are not embodied in rituals.

Building Strong Relationships

People who feel connected work more effectively together. Shared rituals help bring together a diverse workforce and reinforce the culture of an organization.

Rituals increase the sense of belonging and trust between team members. This is especially important in organizations where there is relatively less communication between different departments and positions.

A well-known example of corporate culture is the Grundfos Olimpics Olympic Games, where Grundfos periodically brings 1,000 employees from 55 countries to Denmark to participate in the "Olympics". During this period, employees from different countries live with their Danish team members, which greatly contributes to the deepening of interpersonal relationships.


Stimulate desired behavior

The implementation of small, even insignificant rituals often has a significant impact on improving the effectiveness of the organization.

An example of such a ritual in the research and consulting company ACT is the so-called “Muda Competition” (Muda), which is based on the principles of Lean Management. This competition is held periodically and serves to reduce, and in the best case, eliminate unnecessary costs (including time, human resources, etc.) in the organization. Its main idea is to improve the existing system from the bottom up, at the initiative of those people who have to deal with this or that process in their daily activities and most objectively assess the shortcomings in them. Accordingly, all employees take part in the competition. The competition provides for various nominations - "The chosen Muda for exile", "The most original Muda name", "The most reasoned explanation" and "The simplest solution to the Muda issue".

The winning teams of the competition are rewarded with various prizes, and the reduction in identified costs is reflected in an increase in the overall efficiency of the company.

Reducing stress levels

In a rapidly changing environment, organizations need to remain as flexible as possible. Often this adversely affects their results. In the midst of ever-changing economic, political and other changes, it is important to maintain the strength of organizational culture.

Rituals help to ensure the internal stability and resilience of the organization. They help team members stay focused on the main goal, despite difficulties, and not fall into despair. Rituals have proven to be a guarantee of organizational health for many organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Examples of such rituals are virtual holidays and Happy Hour.

Organizational rituals are often found in the cultures of well-known companies such as Google, Zoom, Zappos and others.

For example, an example of such a ritual at Google is the weekly open meetings (so-called TGIF) with high-ranking executives, where company employees from all over the world can ask questions on topics of interest to them and get comprehensive answers.

Zoom's organizational culture is distinguished by its focus on people. The management encourages employees to bring family members to the office, which helps to preserve the health of the team, on the one hand, and the personal life of employees, on the other.

Zappos stands out for its creative organizational rituals. The “strange talent show”, which has become a symbol of the company, serves not to discover stars, but to reveal individualism. Each employee is given the opportunity to enjoy their uniqueness and share their strange or uncomfortable talents with team members.

At the end of this article, I will share with you some undeclared rituals, some of which may already exist in your company, and you can learn about the benefits they create for your company:

Morning coffee meetings - every day in the company should begin with the phrase - "Hi, how are you?". Each of us needs to relax and wake up, which allows us to talk on general topics. A 5-10 minute conversation with an employee often turns into a discussion of plans for the day. Such dialogues often end with the questions “What are you working on today, what are you going to do today?”, which creates a general idea of \u200b\u200byou or your colleague's plan for the day.

15-minute stand-up meetings with team members - sharing information about plans for the day and their projects - one of the most important rituals that creates a general idea of what stage the team is at, whether additional resources have been freed up somewhere or whether anyone needs Any help to complete the project on time.

Circle of acquaintance - the team forms a circle and shares with each other information about themselves that the rest of the team does not know. The existing ritual is often performed in conjunction with the coffee ritual, but in a relatively small circle, the latter requiring the participation of the entire team. This creates a kind of bond between team members, which helps in the coordinated execution of common projects.

Adaptation of a new employee. All new employees must adapt to the work environment and team. Change is not easy for everyone, so it makes sense to plan some type of team-initiated activity with a new employee, one of the simplest examples of which is organizing a Pub Crawl evening.

Knowledge sharing - team members periodically meet and share their experiences (mistakes and positive experiences), which contributes to the overall growth of team members. Also, team members realize that mistakes, to a greater or lesser extent, can make everything, which leads to a decrease in the level of stress caused by the fear of mistakes.

Perhaps some of these rituals have already entered your daily life. In addition, think about what other rituals exist in your company? How do they affect the efficiency of you and the company as a whole? When or who created them? The main thing to remember is that rituals are not created by themselves, but are created, strengthened and initiated by people.


The seasonal concern of summer is to plan a vacation so that during the long-awaited vacation we can do more or less everything - have fun, relax, be active, visit new places, visit family members and friends. Since spring, many questions have arisen in our heads: where to relax? For how many days should we book a hotel? How to travel? How much money should I set aside for shopping while traveling? Do we have savings? And most importantly, where can we find peace of mind?

The only question we can answer without hesitation this year is that we definitely need a good rest. Waves of the Covid pandemic, economic turmoil, the Russian-Ukrainian war, a stressful work environment, and existentially charged personal relationships are the main causes of stress. For most people, tourism is the main source of relaxation and positive emotions.

Rest on Russian background

According to the National Tourism Administration of Georgia, 387,781 foreign visitors entered the country in June 2022. Compared to the same period last year, this figure increased by 164.4%. According to statistics, 90,239 visitors came from Russia and 62,192 from Turkey.

In June, 252,656 arrived by land, 131,534 by air, 2,122 by rail, and 1,469 by sea.

It is noteworthy in these data that the top ten countries included Russia (in first place), Armenia (in third place) and Belarus (in ninth place), and also that the increase in the number of visitors from these countries compared to the same period last year is the highest (502.9%, 364.5% and 222.5% respectively).

From Russia and Belarus, the increase in tourist flows raises many questions among the local population. Dissatisfied with this situation, especially those whose personal or family economic situation does not depend on the growth of the tourist flow (does not own a rental area or other commercial facility). For this part of the population, the abundance of tourists, on the contrary, brings more negative results than positive ones. This is due to the fact that prices for products, services and rental housing are rising in resort areas, which makes rest even more inaccessible for many of our compatriots.

A significant part of the surveyed population (84%) expects an increase in the flow of Russian tourists to the country (including resort areas) this year, which does not cause discomfort for 70%. 3 out of 10 citizens call the abundance of Russian tourists in resort areas the cause of personal discomfort.

Russian tourist - guest or host?

Although the majority of the population does not openly express dissatisfaction with the large number of Russian tourists vacationing in the resort areas of Georgia, the majority of them (57%) believe that the Georgian government should restrict Russian citizens from doing business. on the territory of Georgia (including tourist areas), because:

• Russia is an enemy of Georgia (40.6%);

• Companies founded by Russian citizens in Georgia compete with local firms and as a result reduce their income (37.9%);

• Russia is waging war against Ukraine (11.1%).

Creating a favorable business environment for Russian "tourists" in Georgia poses a direct economic threat to local businesses, as this fact significantly increases competition in the country's market and, therefore, negatively affects the expected financial well-being. The victims of the process are those businessmen who year after year wait for the tourist season and whose economic power is built on the principle of distributing seasonal income throughout the year.

ACT conducted a survey of the population on tourism issues from 11 to 16 June 2022. More than 800 randomly selected citizens of Georgia aged 18 and over took part in the study.

40% of the population's financial situation has deteriorated over the past year

To assess the financial readiness of the population of Georgia for the holiday season, it is first of all important to know that more than 40% of the population say that the economic situation of themselves and their families has worsened or significantly worsened over the past 1 year. As for the population's expectations regarding current events in the country, it is indicative that, according to about half of the population (45%), events in Georgia are developing clearly or in many respects in the wrong direction. This makes them feel even more exposed to financial risks.

Every second person in Georgia does not have a plan for a summer vacation

According to the survey, despite possible obstacles, 40% of the population plans to go on vacation this summer, and even more (55%) do not have such plans. At the same time, the number of those wishing to go on vacation decreases with age - 2.3 times more young people (18-34 years old) plan to go on vacation compared to representatives of the older age group (55+) (54% and 24%, respectively). It should also be noted that residents of the capital plan to go on vacation much more often (56%) compared to the population living in the regions (slightly more than 1/3).

The duration of planned rest is mainly limited to 1-2 weeks (65%).

More than half of the population plan to relax in the country house or with relatives

In addition, 58% of the segment of the Georgian population who are going on vacation are planning to spend their holidays at their own or with relatives in the country, more than 40% are considering seaside resorts in Georgia, and 23% are considering mountain resorts in Georgia. Only 16% of respondents intend to go on holiday abroad.

According to the results of the study, the majority of people (60%) who plan to spend the summer in their own home cite the lack of sufficient funds for recreation as the reason. The rest say they have to give up vacation for personal reasons (27%) or lack of vacation (9%).

More than 8% of the population plans to leave the country for vacation due to the large number of Russian tourists gathering at local resorts.

Among those who plan to spend their holidays abroad, one in four chooses prices that are lower than those of local resorts. And 1 out of 10 citizens decides to spend their holidays abroad because of the best price and quality. The majority (42%) of those wishing to spend their holidays abroad associate their choice with the desire to see a foreign country. Every third person is planning a vacation abroad for the simple reason that his friends, relatives or loved ones live there. It is significant that more than 8% of the population cited the large number of tourists of Russian nationality in the resorts of Georgia as the reason for leaving the country on vacation.

It is also indicative that, according to the study, 10% fewer people plan to go on vacation this year compared to previous years (38.1% and 48.6%, respectively). To what extent all this affects the health, ability to work, motivation, quality of work and social life of tens of thousands of our citizens is the subject of another study. Explorers don't rest.


Ancient Chinese merchants were among the first entrepreneurs. They have found a unique way to manage risk in international trade. They distributed their goods for sale on several ships and released at sea. Thus, if one ship was sunk or became a victim of pirates, the rest had a chance to survive. In this way, Chinese merchants safely transported most of their goods to the market of the neighboring city and avoided serious financial losses.

In the 21st century, the export-oriented business is no longer threatened by pirates, but it continues to face other challenges. In today's world, the political, economic and social environment is changing so rapidly that the most difficult task for any company is to find and retain a loyal customer.

The main conclusion that a business must make in the current reality is this: Chinese merchants learned this centuries ago - they realized how much risk the principle "Put all your eggs in one basket" contains. Inspired by an old adage, this concept perfectly explains the importance of market diversification. Its relevance is growing day by day for international marketers and it is clear that Georgian companies are no exception. The Russian-Ukrainian war once again showed us what we have already witnessed many times - how dependence on the market of one country interferes with business.

No one disputes that market diversification is the best solution for risk insurance. However, the implementation of this principle in the modern world requires much more effort than "several cargo ships". Even in the case of the local market, there are many challenges - finding a relevant target customer, winning and maintaining his loyalty. It is even more difficult to fulfill this mission in the international arena. So when we discuss reducing risk and increasing capacity for export-oriented enterprises, the question is not what? but the question is - how?

How companies can better find and develop an unknown market or, at best, markets? It is obvious, and it can be seen with the naked eye, that it will be difficult to succeed only by watching the trends. The most effective tool for planning an international marketing strategy is market research, and consumer research occupies one of the main places in this process.

Well, if you are a business owner and want to expand, open up new markets, consumer research can be the most necessary and useful tool for you.

opportunities for consumer research:

  • Find out who your customer is and what they want.

The number one task in the process of finding a new market is to find out if the buyer needs the offered product or service at the offered price. For a company, entering a new market without consumer research is like wandering through a maze. Obviously, a business can have a rough idea of the needs of foreign customers, that is, of where and to whom it will be profitable to export this or that product. However, these ideas are largely based on intuition and may well not correspond to reality. After all, any foreign market is unique and differs in many ways from the local market - its buyers live in a different geographical area, speak a different language, have special requirements, opportunities and preferences. Accounting for all these factors is a prerequisite for success, in which consumer research can be of great help.

The survey provides the business owner with detailed information that:

  • in what segments of the population there is a demand for this product;
  • What is the consumer behavior of the specified segment
  • What preferences, explicit or hidden desires do users have;
  • Who are the competitors and what is their marketing strategy;
  • How does the buyer feel about the price.

This is not an exhaustive list of the knowledge that can be obtained through consumer research. If it is analyzed correctly, the business will have the opportunity to get to know the new market well and find the right target segment - the client who is most likely to buy his product or service. In this case, the decision to enter a new market is made on the basis of evidence, not assumptions, which significantly reduces risks.

ACT actively helps Georgian and foreign companies to develop foreign markets. One example of this is a consumer survey conducted in Yerevan commissioned by a supermarket chain. ACT has conducted a study of consumer preferences and consumer basket in Armenia. Analysis of the research results allowed the customer company to offer the client a product that takes into account the needs of the target segment. Thus, consumer research helped the business to insure the risks, due to which it established itself rather painlessly in the new market.

  • Grab the attention of the target use.

Finding a target customer is the first step in entering a new market. The next and no less important task is to attract the attention of potential customers. To do this, the business needs to properly pack the product and deliver it to the customer in such a way that it arouses his interest. The role of research is also important at this stage of the development of an unknown market. Research, in addition to the rational motives of human behavior, also reveals what topics potential customers react emotionally to, what excites them, likes or annoys them. Having received this information, the business will be able to offer the product to the buyer, taking into account his wishes and develop an effective way of advertising.

A good example of this is the entry into the Georgian market of several foreign shopping centers. By their order, ACT conducted a study - studied the consumer behavior of Georgians, brand preferences and consumer attitudes towards the proposed product. According to the results of the study, the companies adjusted their marketing strategy, offered the buyer a product that meets his requirements, and earned the location of the target segment. Thus, research-based solutions ended up being effective for them.

  • Constantly keep abreast of the user.

The key to the success of any business is a satisfied customer. As soon as a customer buys a product or service, a timer starts. The business really wins if the customer comes back to buy again and again. This will be a sign that the brand has received the most important award - customer loyalty. However, loyalty is not permanent. People's tastes change every day, new needs and desires arise. In fact, the success of a business depends on how well it listens to its customers. An effective tool for maintaining their loyalty is customer research. This allows the company to constantly keep abreast of the buyer - not to miss a single change in his mood and always be aware of trends.

This consumer research opportunity was successfully used by one of the representatives of the banking and financial sector from Georgia. ACT conducted several stages of consumer research for him in Uzbekistan, Central Asia. In order to identify the preferences of local consumers, the study was conducted both before and after entering an unknown market. As a result, the company managed to take a worthy place in the financial sector of the foreign market.

As we can see, consumer research is a necessary and useful step for a company that wants to expand and open up new markets. This allows business owners to make informed decisions, which greatly reduces the risk of opening, exploiting and maintaining new markets. However, businesses should not forget that the “stopwatch that starts when entering a new market” runs continuously while the company operates in this market. Thus, entering the market of a foreign country is not a one-time decision. Business must constantly be in the process of research and analysis of experience.