Few private firms survive to third generation

March 30, 2009
The Gene B. Glick Co. has managed to accomplish what few privately held family enterprises can—keeping the company alive for a third generation.

The average life expectancy of a family business in the United States is 24 years, said Donald F. Kuratko, executive director of the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Indiana University.

Only about 30 percent of businesses survive to a second generation, and only 16 percent make it to a third, Kuratko reports in his book, "En trepreneurship: Theory, Process and Practice."

"Succession planning has not been a major focus of most family businesses," he said. "They run their businesses based on everyday opportunities, how to stay alive and growing. Too often, people try to transition the business only after the death of a key person."

Kuratko said he is not aware of studies showing how many companies survive to a fourth generation.
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