Johnathan Dudley, Partner, Business Advisory, Head of Manufacturing
There’s an old saying that family businesses go from ‘clogs to clogs in three generations’; one generation to found a business, the next to build it, and the third to spend it.
While it may sound like cliché and doesn’t affect every family and owner-managed business, many of us will know a story of a third generation where the business has failed.
Entrepreneurship isn’t something that can be taught - it’s in the genes. So a family business ought to have an advantage shouldn’t they?
Well maybe. Entrepreneurs have both good and bad business traits. Talk to any successful business owner and they will always know that. They learn from their mistakes and take steps to deal with any weaknesses. Nobody is good at everything. The trick is to know it, realise it and deal with it.
In a family business situation this is something that is often overlooked. The older generation should be looked up to by younger generations. This support mechanism is often overlooked or underestimated. Then, when it’s the child or grandchild’s turn to take over and emulate their success and build on it; that support is absent and that’s when failure can happen.
Coupled with the above, there may also be resentment at being mentored for a role which they may not feel equipped for or, in some cases, motivated to take on. In this instance you can see why generational failure in the business is perhaps more understandable.
Of course, there are training courses, degrees and even MBA’s that an heir apparent can be sent on. Yes, they have their place. But their focus is on the generic challenges of a business; theory not practice. They have limited value when challenged with some of the unique issues linked to working in a family and owner-managed business environment. For example, you are faced with some employees working on the assumption that you’re only there because of your surname. A tricky position for everyone to handle. Throw into the mix some judgemental pressure from the family and a sprinkling of sibling rivalries and it’s easy to see how things can go wrong and there is a reluctance to stay within the family business.
It may seem obvious, but the key is having an honest confidant. This should be someone you can trust and take constructive and independent challenge from. A person to bounce ideas off and learn best practice from in dealing effectively with people and family issues. Most importantly this should be in an environment that is independent from family and confidential. As much as possible; this support needs to be 24/7!
At Crowe, our coaching service offers a bespoke blend of face to face and virtual support. It is backed by a comprehensive interactive technology platform that has a range of courses and problem solving tools that constantly refresh. It offers access for the family to get the help, training and support they need whenever they need it. It’s the kind of stuff that they don’t teach you at university but is essential for the day to day running of a successful business.
The platform goes beyond coaching. The personal side is the most important factor. Our team undergo robust and ongoing training. They have specific experience of advising family and owner-managed businesses for many years.
Many of us grew up experiencing the stresses from our own family businesses and therefore have empathy as well, sometimes, as sympathy! As with everything we do; we aim to help people make smart decisions that create lasting value.
The cost of a personal Crowe Coach could be less than you think and may even be the smartest decision you will make in your family business and create lasting value, for generations to come.
For more information on the issues addressed in this article or to discuss your individual circumstances, get in touch with Johnathan Dudley or your usual Crowe contact.
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