Molson – a Canadian family business success story

Note: This post was originally published on July 31, 2010. We’ve updated it with more recent statistics and information family-owned business and the Molson family.

At GoForth Institute, we love talking about family businesses. After all, about 80% of all firms in Canada are family-owned. Family-owned businesses are also responsible for approximately 60% of Canada’s GDP annually. That just goes to show how viable family businesses are in today’s entrepreneurial climate!

When you think of family-run business, do you picture the stereotypical “Mom and Pop operation,” with kids working weekends and evenings? Yes, many of Canada’s family-run small businesses are like this. But we wanted to share the story of a more prominent Canadian family-run business. Take some inspiration from the Molson family.

The Molson Brewery, the oldest brewery in North America, is a family-run business

Even if you’re a teetotaler, you’re probably familiar with Molson. Did you know that Molson Canada is the nation’s second-oldest business?

This family-run business was founded in Montreal in 1786, by John Molson. This original Molson arrived in Montreal just four years earlier from England. He wasn’t the only British expat in town, either, and he knew that his countrymen would be thirsty for good beer.

Molson’s beer was a hit right away. His entrepreneurial vision allowed him to craft a beer that was appreciated by workers and the upper class alike. Soon enough, his customer base was growing faster than he could produce beer.

It also did not take long before Molson became, as many entrepreneurs are, stretched too thin with other business commitments. His three sons began to take on a larger role within the family business.

In 2005, Molson merged with American company Coors – another family-run business – to form the Molson Coors Brewing Company. Seventh-generation Molson family members Andrew and Geoff serve on the company’s Board of Directors along with members of the Coors family, and non-family members hold other leadership positions. It is this balance between “insiders” and “outsiders” that can help a family-run business move forward on a strong, healthy foundation. A snag of family-run small businesses is the same as one of its perks: You get to work with your family. Giving yourself a little breathing room is always a good idea!

A family-run business that gives back to its community

The Molson family were not just known for their beer, however. Their entrepreneurial spirit shone through in other areas of the community as well. Among other things, the family was responsible for Montreal’s first library, the creation of what became the Bank of Montreal, the new Montreal General Hospital and was behind the creation of Canada’s first railway.

Lessons to be learned from the Molson family

Of course, we don’t expect your family-run small business to become the behemoth that Molson Canada is. We do think, though, that any family business can learn a thing or two from the Molsons. This family-run business found a niche in the marketplace, played an active role in the community and – most importantly – struck the right balance to stay together both as a family and as business partners.

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