This book reads like a novel. The author is more than frank in his narrative about the array of complications and joys that happened in his family business and in his life. He is as honest about his failings as he is about the failings of his family i.e. “I identified so completely with the company that my own identity and self-respect was entirely dependent on it… My life had been totally dedicated to the Thornton Family Business”…. While in some cases, his candor may be too graphic for some readers, this book is a compelling story for those who are drawn to an autobiographical account of life ‘inside a family business’.
Mr. Thornton is in the third generation of his family business. His Grandfather was the founder. His Father and Uncle successfully ran the business in a mutual partnership. During the first three generations the males in the family did not have a choice about what they wanted to do/be. Mr. Thornton describes the norm to be fit to the career instead of the career being fit for the person.
As the reader moves through Mr. Thornton’s family business story, s/he will notice his story is replete with points of failure that are common to many family businesses i.e. triangulation, ineffective succession planning, ineffective leverage of independent directors, ineffectual preparation of heirs for family wealth transition and stewardship.
That said, however, the Thornton family did two critical things well — they have consistently and effectively leveraged their family mission statement and business principles regardless of family circumstances; and they remained true to their value of putting their employees first, thus creating a very important foundation for business stability and profitability to this day.