Family business tools and tips
As business coach Stephanie Bown asked HomeHub readers, “Would you ever work in a business with your partner, sibling, parent, or best friend?”. Starting a company or continuing a legacy with loved ones can be tricky, especially family members who are known to bring their baggage into the boardroom. It’s one thing to experience a bit of sibling rivalry or parental power games at home but quite another when assets and livelihoods are at stake.
Questions to ask your family business
Family Business Australia (FBA) is the peak body for family business in Australia, a sector it says accounts for almost half a million businesses and 50 per cent of the Australian workforce. Building stronger families and healthier businesses requires strong foundations, which often includes asking some tough questions about roles, ownership and expectations.
“The ownership structure of the business is particularly relevant since it is usually the ultimate
determinant of effective power and control, and generates both the key management issues and
the leadership and ownership succession challenges. Three main ownership configurations or
stages can be identified: controlling owner; sibling partnership; and cousin collaboration.”
To help you anticipate and prepare for the next stage(s) of development in your family
business, FBA has put together the following list of questions, which you can explore in further depth here:
Family members in managerial positions
- Do you have documented policies for entry into and exit from the business?
- Are there criteria for family members joining the business?
- Is outside experience required prior to joining the business?
- Are family members paid market rate salaries?
- How are decisions about promotions and appointments of family members made?
Communication, governance and outside advice/input
- Do you hold family meetings (or other processes) to facilitate discussion/resolution of issues?
- Do you have a Board of Directors that includes non-family Directors? How often does it meet?
- Does the family have a process (such as a Code of Conduct) to guide the relationships and behaviour of family members in the business?
- Is there a mechanism to ensure that all family members have a say in the running of the business e.g. a family council?
- What are your greatest challenges as a family business and what steps are you taking to meet them?
- Do you have a written business or strategic plan?
- Do you have contingency plans to deal with serious illness/incapacity/ loss/divorce of key family members involved in the business?
Business continuity and succession
- Do you intend the business to remain ‘in the family’?
- Do you have a succession plan that addresses issues of both management and ownership succession including the fair and equitable distribution of family assets, and the issue of business ownership control?
- Are other family members involved in succession planning discussions?
- Do you have leadership training or mentoring programs for younger family members?
If you need simple advice or help with resolving a complex business issue, check out this recommended reading list. It includes everything from understanding the psychology of running a family business to connecting with younger generations.