A family-owned business is defined as any business in which two or more family members are involved, and the control of the business itself is held within the family. Ranging in size from the two-person mom-and-pop convenience store to Fortune 500 firms, the impact of the family business on the U.S. economy cannot be ignored.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 37 million businesses in the United States, and 32.4 million are family-owned, or 87 percent. Additionally, family businesses are responsible for employing 59 percent of the private sector workforce. This translates to 83.3 million jobs. In 2021, family businesses generated 54 percent of the private sector GDP (Gross Domestic Profit) or $7.7 trillion. Did that surprise you? It surprised me, too.
Another characteristic of the family business is its longevity. A recent study in Family Business Magazine highlights the 100 oldest family businesses in America. Many of the companies featured stretch back as far as 15 generations, and a few are older than the United States itself.
The Avedis Zildjian Company is a musical instrument manufacturer. The company was founded in Istanbul in 1623 by Avedis Zildjian and is now based in Massachusetts. Zildjian is the oldest manufacturer of musical instruments worldwide as well as one of the oldest continuously operating companies worldwide. Today the company is run by the daughters of Armand Zildjian, Craigie and Debbie, making them the 14th generation to run the Zildjian Company.
John Lyman is the 8th generation of the Lyman Family farming in central Connecticut. Founded in 1741, the original family farm has evolved into a New England tradition. From award-winning handmade pies delivered fresh to your kitchen table to winter season Goat Milk Soap Making, the business has grown to fit the needs of today’s market.
Bachman Funeral Home has a long history in the central Pennsylvania region. Started by Johannes Bachman in 1769, the company is in its eighth generation as a family-run business and is the longest-running funeral services provider in the United States.
What all of these businesses have in common, besides being family owned and operated, is also being family focused. In fact, many of the oldest family-run businesses in the United States have established values-driven cultures for their organizations, putting people over profits. The most successful cultures are built and strengthened through multiple generations of the family and are the backbone of the business itself.
While Cosmetic Specialty Labs, Inc. has a way to go to match the life span of the Zildjian Company, the Lyman Farm, or the Bachman Funeral Home, I am proud of our nearly 50 years. It is my honor to continue to build upon the legacy created by my grandmother, and with the fourth generation now involved, it is a legacy that will continue for another 50 years.
Jennifer Krebs-Ellis is president & CEO of Cosmetic Specialty Labs, Inc, former Mayor of Medicine Park and serves as a commissioner on the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.