When Julie Smolyansky was a baby, her parents Michael and Ludmila immigrated to Chicago from the former Soviet Union. It was the perfect place for the entrepreneurial couple, as they believed wholeheartedly in the American dream. “My father was passionate about the idea that a little guy with a novel idea and the ability to problem-solve could support a family and create economic prosperity for others,” Smolyansky says.
Family and Business Values Align
In 1986, Michael Smolyansky created Lifeway Foods, a consumer health food company that specializes in cultured probiotic beverages similar to yogurt. The company grew quickly, as the elder Smolyansky was able to connect with people of all social and economic backgrounds, whether in the factory or on Wall Street. He treated all of his employees like family and was known for his pride and generosity. According to Julie Smolyansky at Lifeway Foods personal and professional achievement was always celebrated, including milestones "ranging from a new sales record to someone’s 40th birthday.”
The alignment of personal and professional values is a hallmark of thriving family businesses. “Successful family businesses tend to have the family's values and culture deeply embedded into their business strategies, policies and practices,” says Don Schwertzler, co-founder of the Atlanta-based Family Business Institute. Schwertzler suggests that these values must be clearly defined, communicated and reinforced with family-business employees understanding the critical importance of standards and leaders possessing the ability to confront behaviors that violate the standards.
For more on how to make a family business successful, have a look at my Culture Beat column at the AMEX Open Forum.