Do Most Family Businesses Really Fail by the Third Generation?

If you’re a fan of the HBO show Succession, or if you’re aware of the conflicts playing out publicly and perennially among some of the most visible family businesses in the world — think the Murdochs or Sumner Redstone’s family— you might assume that family businesses are more fragile than other forms of enterprise. Indeed, that’s the conventional wisdom: Many articles or speeches about family businesses today include a reference to the “three-generation rule,” which says that most don’t survive beyond three generations.

But that perception could not be further from the truth. On average, the data suggest that family businesses last far longer than typical companies do. In fact, today they dominate most lists of the longest-lasting companies in the world, and they’re well-positioned to remain competitive in the 21st century economy.

A Single Study, Decades Old

Where did that three-generation idea come from? A…

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