The Cornell University Smith Family Business Initiative says that more than three-quarters (77%) of small businesses rest on significant family involvement. Family Enterprise USA has counted 5.5 million family businesses in the U.S., finding that they contribute 57% of the U.S. GDP, employ 63% of workers and create 78% of all new jobs. And not all are small businesses: Businessweek.com has reported that 35% of Fortune 500 companies are family-controlled.
But the statistics on how often family businesses don’t sustain themselves over time—whether due to squabbling or for other reasons—paint a stark picture. According to Business Week, 40% of family-owned businesses reach the second generation, 13% get to a third and just 3% are passed down to a fourth generation or beyond. And familybusinesscenter.com calculates the average life span as 24 years.