FAMILY businesses are different from other sorts—they are held together by strands of DNA as well as the logic of profit. They are rich in scarce resources, such as loyalty and flexibility, but also suffer from extreme challenges, such as family feuds and wayward patriarchs. At their best they are unbeatable. At their worst they are disasters.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is as good an illustration of this point as any. He presents himself as a businessman who can offer America commonsense solutions backed up by professional management—“I’m going to get great people that know what they’re doing, not a bunch of political hacks,” he says. But in fact he is a very particular sort of manager: a second-generation family businessman who inherited a property company from his father, Fred, and relies on his three adult children, Donald, Ivanka and Eric, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to run it.

The debate about the business skills of Mr Trump frequently misses this simple point. Critics lambast his chaotic methods: the Trump Organisation lists 515 businesses and has at various times branched out from property into TV,…Continue reading