Family-owned companies: Do they continue to have the best business reputations?

While public perceptions of “greedy businesspeople” have always been part of the sociological landscape, over the years opinions about family businesses have tended to be more forgiving.

That perception appears to be holding. A newly published report reveals that people trust family businesses significantly more than businesses in general.

The trust levels are ~75% for family-owned businesses versus just 59% overall.

That finding comes from a survey of ~15,000 respondents age 18 or older conducted by research firm Edelman Intelligence, which is part of the Edelman marketing communications firm.

The research was conducted across 12 country markets and are contained in the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer report.  In addition to the United States, the other country markets that were surveyed included:

  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China
  • France
  • Germany
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Italy
  • Mexico
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Kingdom

Not only do the respondents in the Edelman survey trust family businesses more, they themselves would rather work for a family business.

Moreover, if they know a company is a family-run business, they’re three times more likely to be willing to pay more for its products or services.

Not everything is quite so positive, however. Compared to businesses in general, family-run businesses aren’t viewed as innovators (only ~15% compared to ~45%), or drivers of financial success (just ~15% vs. ~43%).

Even more discouraging is this finding:  Although in actuality family-run businesses are often major sources of philanthropy, only ~17% of the Edelman survey respondents view these companies as leaders in helping to address societal challenges. So, more work appears to be needed to attain the recognition that is deserved in this arena.

Another common perception – and this may be a more accurate one in reality – is that family-run businesses are skimpy in their willingness to share financial and other information about how their businesses are run.

But the most potentially harmful perception is the opinion the general public has about successive generations of family members managing family-run businesses. “Next-generation” CEOs are ~17% less trusted than founders.  They’re also considered far more likely to mismanage the business – not to mention being seen as less committed to the success of their enterprises.

In short, an inherited business, like inherited wealth, is viewed with suspicion by many people, and it’s more likely to be perceived as “undeserved.”

So, the portrait of family businesses isn’t completely rosy … but the reputation of these enterprises remains better than for businesses in general.

More information and key findings from the Edelman report can be found here.

Chief Marketing Officers and the revolving door.

If it seems to you that chief marketing officers last only a relatively short time in their positions, you aren’t imagining things.

The reality is, of all of the various jobs that make up senior management positions at many companies, personnel in the chief marketing officer position are the most likely to be changed most often.

To understand why, think of the four key aspects of marketing you learned in business school: Product-Place-Price-Promotion.

Now, think about what’s been happening in recent times to the “4 Ps” of the marketing discipline. In companies where there are a number of “chief” positions – chief innovation officers, chief growth officers, chief technology officers, chief revenue officers and the like – those other positions have encroached on traditional marketing roles to the extent that in many instances, the CMO no longer has clear authority over them.

It’s fair to say that of the 4 Ps, the only one that’s still the clear purview of the CMO is “Promotion.”

… Which means that the chief marketing officer is more accurately operating as a chief advertising officer.

Except … when it comes to assigning responsibility (or blame, depending on how things are going), the chief marketing officer still gets the brunt of that attention.

“All the responsibility with none of the authority” might be overstating it a bit, but one can see how the beleaguered marketing officer could be excused for thinking precisely that when he or she is in the crosshairs of negative attention.

Researcher Debbie Qaqish at The Pedowitz Group, who is also author of the book The Rise of the Revenue Marketer, reports that as many as five C-suite members typically share growth and revenue responsibility inside a company … but the CMO is often the one held responsible for any missed targets.

With organizational characteristics like these, it’s no wonder the average CMO tenure is half that of a CEO (four years versus eight). Research findings as reported by Neil Morgan and Kimberly Whitler in the pages of the July 2017 issue of the Harvard Business Review give us that nice little statistic.

What to do about these issues is a tough nut. There are good reasons why many traditional marketing activities have migrated into different areas of the organization.  But it would be nice if company organizational structures and operational processes would keep pace with that evolution instead of staying stuck in the paradigm of how the business world operated 10 or 20 years ago.

Rapid change is a constant in the business world, and it’s always a challenge for companies to incorporate changing responsibilities into an existing organizational structure.  But if companies want to have CMOs stick around long enough to do some good, a little more honesty and fairness about where true authority and true responsibility exist would seem to be in order.

Personality and Productivity in the Workplace: When Grumpy is Good

NoWhen it comes to which characteristics people consider the most important for being successful in the working world, we hear same traits cited so often, it becomes like a litany.

A recent survey of ~500 business managers in the communications and technology fields, conducted by digital education company Hyper Island, confirms it yet again.

When the survey respondents were asked to identify which traits were most important, here were their top answers:

  • A winning personality (e.g., creative, open-minded, positive):  ~78% identified as among the most desirable traits.
  •  Cultural alignment (making decisions that reflect the values shared with their organization):  ~53% identified as among the most desirable traits.
  •  The skill-sets of the worker:  Only ~39% identified this as the most important trait.

Regarding skill-sets, it seems that despite the inexorable increase in technical expertise and acumen required of workers in nearly every business discipline, many people continue to believe that personality, attitude and a team mentality trump capabilities and expertise.

In other words, it’s the notion that it’s easier to educate someone with a positive attitude than it is to work with someone who really knows his or her stuff, but has a bad attitude, is a wet dishrag, or whatever.

unhelpful employeeWell, hold that thought.  Because now we have new research from analysts at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Illinois which is giving us another angle to consider.

In their studies, these researchers have found that workers with “net-negative” personality traits appear to be more efficient in their jobs than those who possess “net-positive” personalities.

What’s going on?

To come to this conclusion, the university researchers had their study participants meticulously document all of their activities over a prescribed period of time, along with completing a survey that measured attitudes about their jobs, their workplace and their colleagues.

As it turns out, it’s not that one group puts in more time than the other at the office.  It’s that workers with “sunnier” dispositions are more open to performing tasks that may be outside of their comfort zone.

They’re more inclined to “have a go” at different activities, because they’re naturally more curious … and more willing to step in and support the larger work team.

… Especially if their boss requests it.

By contrast, grumpier employees are less open to novelty … more suspicious of taking on other tasks … and more likely to put up subtle (or not-so-subtle) psychological barriers when it comes to being approachable about taking on those tasks.

By their behavior and body language, they may often be successful in dissuading their superiors from even asking them to take on new and different job tasks.

And if they’re asked, they’re less likely to acquiesce.

As a result, these employees tend to spend more time on a fewer variety of tasks – the ones they already know.  Which, in turn, makes them more likely to further hone their skills in those areas.

I don’t think these new findings challenge the underlying idea that employees with a positive attitude are a strong asset to companies.

But perhaps a smidgeon more credit may be due to the employees who are on the other end of the scale.  When you find them sitting alone in the break room, or avoiding gathering around the water cooler, they may be investing more amount of time in their work tasks — and developing a higher level of skill as a result.

I guess every cloud has a silver lining …

Ipsos Reid Poll: Female Execs Gauge Their Advances

women managers and executivesAn interesting Ipsos Reid poll of female executives conducted late last year sheds light on what the perceived career holdbacks are for women in the workforce these days.

The results of the online survey, which queried ~500 American women working in managerial or executive roles, suggest that women continue to face obstacles in advancing their careers to upper-level management and executive positions … although the disparities are less today – and hopefully continuing the trend toward parity.

An example of one perception which continues to show a big divide between women and men is this:  While ~37% the survey respondents feel that physical appearance and personal image are factors in career progression for men, nearly all (~90%) believe that they are for women.

On the other hand, the perceived differences are less stark when it comes to opportunities for career progression based on the gender of a female employee’s immediate superior.  When asked how gender affects the chances for women to obtain a managerial position, here’s how the respondents answered:

If the superior is a woman …

  • 26% better chance for advancement
  • 30% worse chance for advancement
  • 44% no difference

If the superior is a man …

  • 26% better chance for advancement
  • 25% worse chance for advancement
  • 49% no difference

… Which translates into trust levels that aren’t so very different at all:

  • ~22% would trust a man more for help with career advancement
  • ~18% would trust a woman more for help with career advancement
  • ~60% express no difference in trust levels

Positive Work Attributes

The Ipsos/Reid survey also found that nearly two-thirds of the respondents consider women to be better leaders than men, primarily for these five reasons:

  • Women are better communicators
  • They are more organized
  • They are more empathetic
  • They have a better understanding of the needs of their employees
  • They are more open to changing their approach

For the record, two attributes that respondents do not attribute to women over men are:

  • Women have better instincts than men
  • They are more invested in an organization’s success compared to men.

With a confident self-image and backed by positive work habits, what do these respondents see as the biggest continuing challenges to their career growth?  Here’s what the Ipsos Reid survey found:

  • The requirement for women to work harder and put in longer hours to prove themselves: ~77%
  • Managing work and family balance: ~61%
  • External factors (economic climate/job loss): ~56%
  • Being welcomed into an established senior management team:  ~48%
  • Dealing with outdated perceptions of women in managerial and executive roles: ~48%
  • Lack of female mentors: ~47%

Moreover, ~78% of respondents discern a “noticeable” different in salaries between men and women.

Asked what a company might “fear” about promoting women to senior managerial and executive posts, the respondents cited several probable factors:  the fear that an executive might want to start and maintain a family … and the fear of too many absences from work due to family obligations.

Bottom line, the Ipsos Reid survey reveals some continuing obstacles for women in the executive-level work force.  But there’s positive news, too.  Additional survey findings can be found here.

If you have additional observations or perspectives on this topic, please share them with other readers here.

The Day-to-Day Things Bothering B-to-B Marketers

Marketing Executives Group (LinkedIn)The discussion boards on LinkedIn are often good places to capture the pulse of what’s happening “on the ground” in the marketing field.

A case in point is a discussion started recently on the Marketing Executives Group on LinkedIn by Carson Honeycutt, an account executive at marketing research firm Mintel.

Honeycutt’s question was, “What are the biggest day-to-day issues for marketing execs?”

He was interested in getting input to help him speak to needs and offer solutions when interfacing with his customers and prospects – even if those solutions meant referring them to other vendors.

According to Honeycutt, he often hears responses like, “Too busy to talk. I’m swamped and we have no budget anyway.”

His query generated some interesting feedback. Comments ranged from the succinct (“sounds like you’re getting the brush-off”) to ones that were more helpful and useful.

The OfficeOne response I liked particularly well came from Brent Parker David, a marketing strategist at CRE8EGY. His listing of the day-to-day issues for marketing execs were to-the-point:

  • Too many meetings;
  • Lack of experienced creative thinking;
  • Personal and political agendas overshadowing the mission and the marketing objectives;
  • Too many “experts” who have never truly accomplished anything — but are very comfortable telling others what to do or how to behave.

I think most of us involved the marketing field for any length of time will be nodding knowingly at the above points …

Another response — more nuanced — came from Matt Smith, a marketing strategist in the consumer packaged goods  field. Here’s what he contributed:

“When Marketing doesn’t provide deep insights and a strategy to leverage them, price discounting takes over. This gives Sales the lead, as they are the executors. Growing sales, no matter how it’s done, is taken as progress. Sales is the hero, even though margins [may] have eroded.

“The byproduct of this is increasing their trade spend budgets — and by extension, their political clout. Conversely, Marketing loses clout as they don’t have an answer that drives sales AND margins. In the zero-sum budget game, the increased trade spend comes out of the advertising/promotion/innovation budget.”

Smith went on to add that “marketing is only stifled by bean-counters if they don’t know their customers and [can’t] devise a creative strategy to get them to buy more at higher margins.”

What are your own thoughts about the biggest day-to-day challenges facing marketing execs? Please share your thoughts with other readers here.