Field Guide to Family Firms

(Updated March 2013)

Family firms, or "family owned businesses," have challenges unique from other types of business. Hiring successors presents the added challenge of balancing familial relationships with employee concerns of nepotism. Business planning brings forth added estate planning and tax concerns. Crisis and strategic planning may call for extra provisions, such as measures for death or illness in the family, among other things. Learn more about these issues from the following articles, eBooks, and other resources in this updated field guide. (K. Stockert, Information & Web Content Specialist)

General Information

The Dynastic Family Limited Partnership—An FLP Coupled With a Twist (Tax Management Estate, Gifts and Trusts Journal, Sept. 6, 2012). Q

A Conversation with George Vozikis, Director of the Institute for Family Business at California State University Fresno (Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, Apr. 2012). Q

The New York Times' topic page Small Business—Family Business provides links to a diversity of news articles about family firms, and is updated as relevant articles are published. 

You're the Boss: A Family Business and Its Pitfalls (New York Times, June 17, 2010). 

When Family Ties Bind Business (New York Times, July 31, 2010). 

Succession ​Planning

Selecting leaders and managers is a challenge in any company, and family firms are no exception. Making the wrong leadership choice can negatively affect employee morale, create a polarized work environment, or even stymie employee growth and development. The articles below offer insight into why you might want to incorporate succession planning into your business plan.

Strategies for Family Business Transitions (Financial Executive, July/Aug. 2012). Q

What’s My Best Strategy for Smooth Succession Planning? (Director, May 2012). Q

The Succession Time Bomb (Director, Feb. 2012). Q

Family Succession Lessons to Apply (Franchising World, Dec. 2011). Q

The Sell Your Business Tool Kit (REALTOR® Magazine, n.d.).

All in the Family (CA Magazine, Aug. 2010). Q

Building Trust Between Family and Non-Family CFOs (Financial Executive, July/Aug. 2010). Q

Business Continuation Planning for the Loss of Family Business Owner (Estate Planning, Apr. 2010). Q

When the Folks Give You the Business (Wall Street Journal, Eastern Edition, July 28, 2010). 

Estate Planning

Estate planning is an important issue to consider in any business and requires significant and dedicated thought. Legal, tax, and financial professionals can provide guidance on specific issues, information on important legal and regulatory changes, create documents tailored to fit your specific situation, and more. Check out the materials below to learn more about why you may want to consider planning ahead.

The Retirement Planning Tool Kit (REALTOR® Magazine, n.d.).

Estate Planning: Watch What You Trust (REALTOR® Magazine Tool Kit, July 2008). 

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) What's New—Estate and Gift Tax web page provides links to general information about estate and gift tax. Their FAQs on Estate Taxes web page provides some additional estate and gift tax considerations. Be sure to check the date at the bottom of both these pages as requirements may have changed since the page was last published.

Crisis Pl​anning

Crisis planning entails planning for potential catastrophe, whether it be a natural or an unforeseen economic, personnel, or even technological disaster. Family firms have the added necessity to draw up provisions for death or illness in the family. What happens if a key family member becomes ill? The goal with crisis planning is to prevent death, illness, or catastrophe from placing the business in a precarious position. The articles below offer some insight into planning for crisis.

The Small Business Administration’s Disaster Preparedness web page offers helpful fact sheets, handouts, and Q&A.

Family Businesses Face Unique D&O Exposures: Generational Changes Add Potential Liabilities (Business Insurance, Jan. 23, 2012). Q

Weathering the Storms (REALTOR® Magazine, May 2010).

Recession Spells End for Many Family Enterprises (Wall Street Journal, Eastern Edition, Oct. 6, 2009). 

A Disaster Recovery Plan (REALTOR® Magazine, Sept. 2009).

Family Business Organizations

Numerous institutes, societies, academic-run organizations, profits, and not-for-profits offer information, networking opportunities, and guidance specifically for family firms and family owned businesses. Below are a few such organizations, but keep in mind there are many more. The National Association of REALTORS® neither condones nor endorses these organizations, but simply offers them as a convenience or starting point in your research.

Books, eBooks & Other Resources

The following eBooks and digital audiobooks are available to NAR members:

Scientific American: Balancing Work and Family, 2002.

The Easy Step by Step Guide to Recruiting the Right Staff (Kindle, Adobe eReader)

The Everything Retirement Planning Book (Adobe eReader)

Unconventional Wisdom: Counterintuitive Insights for Family Business Success (Kindle, Adobe eReader)

Field Guides & More

These field guides and other resources in the Virtual Library may also be of interest:

Field Guide to Leadership Development

Field Guide to Office Policy Manuals

Information Services Blog

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The inclusion of links on this field guide does not imply endorsement by the National Association of REALTORS®. NAR makes no representations about whether the content of any external sites which may be linked in this field guide complies with state or federal laws or regulations or with applicable NAR policies. These links are provided for your convenience only and you rely on them at your own risk.

Notice: The information on this page may not be current. The archive is a collection of content previously published on one or more NAR web properties. Archive pages are not updated and may no longer be accurate. Users must independently verify the accuracy and currency of the information found here. The National Association of REALTORS® disclaims all liability for any loss or injury resulting from the use of the information or data found on this page.