Managing success in a family business …

I recently interviewed Stew Leonard, the CEO of Stew Leonard’s supermarkets in the New York tri-state area, which has been on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For ten times and which the New York Times called The Disneyland of Supermarkets because of their use of animated replicas of animals that sing and dance around the stores.

I asked Stew how they have had such great success as a family business. He shared, “The challenge we all face is operating the business not with the family first, but with the business first. It’s important to communicate the positive things about a family business rather than complaining about the obstacles. The next generation might say they want to do something ‘easier.’ That’s why family members at Stew Leonard’s must have three years of outside work experience after attending college, so they gain a more realistic perspective on business.”

He added, “Hopefully, you’ll have members who can help the business grow and, most importantly, garner the respect of the other people working at the company. As we say in our family business that comes from generations of dairy farmers, don’t hurt the cow that’s producing the milk!”

That’s great advice for CEOs. Make sure family members work in the outside business world so they fully appreciate the positives of the family business.