We recently ran some articles on the importance of succession planning to add value and to protect against the impact of serious physical health decline of its owners.
But what about that other key aspect of corporate wellbeing - the sense of community spirit?
As mentioned recently, my family originated and developed a strong confectionery business built around the famous Maynards brand name. Maynards was one of a group of quaker families that spearheaded the growth of the UK confectionery market. Names such as Cadburys, Rowntrees, Mackintosh, Bassetts...and Maynards all belonged to such families. Now their products are owned by faceless conglomerates and production has been sourced away from original locations. You will no longer find confectionery products being made at Rowntrees' old factory in York, any more than you will find Winegums being produced in Maynards' old factory in Hanngey, London.
I recently visited the Haringey site, thanks to a local businessman who is writing a historical chronicle of the area. The factory is still there, together with iconic chimney stack. But the site is now a warehouse for oriental carpets - sad and somewhat derelict.
My contact showed me some aerial photos of the site in the 1920s and the factory rises majestically from a sea of greenery and garden allottments. Hardly a house in sight. And then he gave me a copy of the History of Maynards from 1896 to 1982.
This contained something amazing by today's standards: in 1946 on the 50th anniversary of the Company, the Directors were 'surprised and slightly embarrassed' to receive an illuminated scroll from all staff ('warehouse, office and shops') 'rejoicing' in the opportunity to place on record their 'sincere appreciation of the ability of the Board of Directors in conducting the affairs of the Company and of the many kindnesses to employees'.
Blimey! The history shows why they were so grateful. They received regular, well paid employment in an impoverished area. From the 1920s, the Directors paid bonuses in cash and shares; there was a thriving Sports & Social Club; in 1947 the Company launched its staff contributory pension scheme and in 1949 extended it to include welfare - well ahead of any political drive for such radical policies.
Maynards was not alone in this - Cadburys is world-famous not only for chocolate bars, but also for the village of Bournville that provided accomodation for its employees. The only contemporary example of the partnership community culture is probably John Lewis, which has been consistently successful partly because its Director-Partners have stuck to the same social principles upon which it was founded.
Would it not be great if we could recover part of that lost heritage? And in case anyone sees this as antruistic, how often does one encounter situations where there is a need to invest in a stronger internal sense of community to enhance the valuation of a business prior to exit? 'Succession planning', 'Staff Incentive Schemes', 'Leadership Managament' are just some of the labels that focus on these critical issues - all too often it comes a bit too late.
Smaller businesses have the best opportunity to make such investments in staff welfare, and the costs are not all that significant if handled in the right way, and the rewards can be high. But the will has to come from the Directors in the first place.
New Years Resolution anyone?