Monday, 12 May 2008

And Sons…


On the way up the motorway the other day GB and I were debating why you never see “X and Daughters” on the side of a lorry or above a shop. I suspect it is because the idea of passing one’s business to one’s daughter would never have occurred to a businessman in the ‘olden days’. Indeed, in Dombey and Son, the title character goes to great lengths to get himself a male heir while ostracizing Florence, his daughter.

Any offspring who inherits the family firm knows the challenges of succession: proving oneself, filling big shoes, and above all, not screwing it up. But a daughter who takes control, especially in a traditionally male-dominated industry such as construction or manufacturing, often faces extra pressure in dealing with longtime suppliers, customers, employees — and even her dad. As recently as 1999 the American chemical firm, Hubbard Hall, had a major problem with the male ruling members of the clan when Mary Kellogg took control after 157 years of male dominance and even today her father can be found bouncing his grandson on his knee and saying to him "One day all this will be yours!"

Nowadays, when the concept of a female inheriting the business would be slightly more acceptable the whole idea of family businesses has faded and neither sons nor daughters are generally expected to do what their parents did. As a result even the name ‘X and Sons’ is becoming more and more rare and I cannot think of a newly established business that has used that title.

The only “X and Daughters” that came immediately to the fore when I googled the concept was Russ and Daughters. Purveyors of the highest quality smoked fish, caviar and specialty foods, Russ & Daughters is New York's premier appetizing food shop. Since 1914 this New York institution has been run by 4 generations of the Russ family.

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