When you think about your business and its brand, what words come to mind?

Pause. Really think about this for a moment. Jot down 3-5 words.

So, what words made your list? Quality? Service? Innovation? These are all great words. But, what about family—did it make the cut? If not, we suggest that it should. And research supports our position.

Sure, working with family can be tricky, but in the minds of your customers, family is a positive attribute. Family Business Magazine reports that 60 percent of consumers say that they prefer to buy from family businesses.

Here are a few reasons to brand yourself as a family business and examples of our FBA members who are getting it right:

1. Humanize your brand. Without a doubt, your business has a story—one that includes a unique set of circumstances and an interesting cast of characters. These stories give context to your business, inspire, and ultimately make your brand more endearing and relatable.

Take this story from BISSEL Inc. BISSELL started out of necessity—Mr. and Mrs. Bissell was looking for a more efficient way to clean up the constant trail of sawdust in their crockery shop. Mr. Bissell invented a unique sweeper and patented it. The story goes on to share that after Mr. Bissell passed away, Mrs. Bissell the business and became the first female CEO in America.

The BISSELL story is pretty remarkable. It gives you a peek at the family’s values of innovation, tenacity, and perseverance.

2. Set yourself apart from the competition. Anyone can start a business, but doing so, and growing it with family, is unique. Use this to differentiate yourself.

Researchers from the Institute for Family Business conducted a survey of 125 family businesses for their report titled Family Business Branding: Leveraging stakeholder trust (note: this report is loaded with great information—definitely worth skimming). Participants were asked why branding themselves as a family business was beneficial. The report states, “A distinct family business brand is assumed to contribute to a company’s image of trustworthiness (81 percent), social responsibility (70 percent), quality-orientation (68 percent) and customer-orientation (67 percent).”

Take King Flour as an example. On their website they say, “King Milling Company has been family owned and operated for over one hundred years. From its humble beginnings using the stone grinding process, to the fully automated network of steel rolls today, the King Milling Company has always pushed to be on the leading edge of milling technology. A quick look at our history will show that our company has always strived to be a pioneer in the milling industry, finding the most efficient way to produce the highest quality flour and wheat products for our customers.”

Without a doubt, this type of information can go a long way in differentiating yourself on the shelf.

3. Build trust. The title of this 2015 Harvard Business Review article says it all—Study: Customers Really Do Trust Family Businesses More.

Positioning yourself as a family business demonstrates steadiness, reliability and a commitment to being around for the next generation. All of these things help customers feel confident and secure in your relationship.

We like this example from Skytron. On their website they say: “Skytron is proud to be a privately held and family-owned company. Since our founding in 1972, we have stood firm on this business structure. We believe it’s one of the many ways that demonstrate our commitment to integrity and long-term focus.”

Reflections: If you are not currently branding yourself as a family business, why not? How could you use this key part of your business to build trust, differentiate yourself and connect more deeply with your customers?


Marci Schafer, Interim Executive Director of Family Business Alliance. Marci Can be reached at marci@fbagr.org or (616)771-0574