Although the majority of family-owned companies around the world have suffered during the recession, 20% are managing "quite well" and 10% are "doing really much better than the competition," says Joachim Schwass, a professor at the IMD business school in Switzerland. In part, this is because many family companies are conservative in nature, and have avoided the risks taken by public companies. "[They] don't maximize profits but minimize risk -- that is why family companies in the fifth or sixth generations are so diversified," said Helmut Eschwey, chief executive officer of German company Heraeus.

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