Family-owned businesses are the bedrock of this country. estimated to be as much as 90% of all businesses.

So I’m not surprised that most of our TPA clients are family-owned, and my guess is that’s the same for your advisory clients.

But what I am somewhat surprised about is that only recently has academic research been focusing on the organizational issues unique to family businesses.

These issues, of course, arise out of the unique features of a family business, e.g., an owner who has used personal assets to finance the business, is concerned about personal reputation, and has an obligation to future generations.

So I thought I might share with you some of the research I’ve run across that may be helpful for how we might better relate to these types of clients.

First, owner-managers are more likely to operate for the long term, and in an ethical and prudent manner.

Second, family businesses tend to operate more informally than other businesses.

Third, trust-based relationships are an important part of how they do business and with whom they do business.

Fourth, it’s not always a meritocracy as to who gets promoted.

“Of course, it’s obvious” you might say. I would agree, but sometimes having the obvious put into context can help us add value to clients.

Jerry Kalish is President of National Benefit Services, Inc., a Chicago-based retirement consulting, actuarial, and administrative firm. He has been publishing The Retirement Plan Blog since 2006. He can be reached via email at

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