Pru Goward, former sex discrimination minister and NSW Minister for Women, is firmly of the view that women have to make the same choices as men – are they the primary parent or are they the primary bread-winner? However, there are lessons to be learned from the family business sector where managing this paradox is a daily battle and doing it well a major competitive advantage.
Of itself the term -family business' is a contradiction as families are not thought of in business terms and businesses do not display the complexity of family relationships. However, across generations family businesses learn to balance the needs of the family and the business, maximising the positives for both.
Successful family businesses don't choose between family and business; rather, they recognise the paradox and choose both. Their -familiness' provides them with a competitive advantage. Their long term view looks to perpetuate the business for future generations. Greater consistency in leadership as well as a strong and supportive culture are underpinned by family values and traditions.
World renowned family business specialist, Professor John Ward will be in the Hunter Valley for the first time this August as he addresses the 14th annual Family Business National Conference. As co-author of several texts that advisers world-wide deem the `bible' of family business advising, Professor Ward's research into the paradox faced by family business has important lessons about balancing both family and business needs.
Professor Ward will be speaking on 'How -familiness' influences the business, creating competitive advantages".
CEO of Family Business Australia Philippa Taylor said the Hunter Region has a rich history of family run businesses that last longer than the national average and it was a logical choice to bring the national conference to the region.
'There is a high concentration of family businesses that have outperformed the national average. Almost half of the family run businesses in Australia are less than 25 years old and only 15% of family businesses last more than 50 years. The families of these business however, go onto found other businesses, becoming families in business. We know there are a large number of family businesses in the Hunter region that are much older than 50 years.
'When you think about the pressures of running a business and then add the extra complexity of doing it with family members, achieving this sort of longevity is noteworthy.
"Managing the often competing needs of family and business requires the ability to take a long-term view, extensive problem solving abilities, a strong support network and clearly articulated values that make choices easier. There are lessons in this for everyone," Ms Taylor said.
Family Business Australia is committed to Australia's future through a dynamic, sustainable family business community. As the Peak Body for Family Business we aim to professionalise family firms through personal, professional and community development. Australia's 14th Annual National Family Business Conference takes place on 23, 24 & 25th August 2012 in the Hunter Valley.
19 September is National Family Business Day, a day to celebrate the contribution that family businesses make to Australia's future.
Question: What are the main family advantages of Family Businesses?
Philippa Taylor: The fact that you have a shared passion and when you're working with the ones you love there is something incredibly exciting about having a shared vision and actually fulfilling it.
Question: How often are family businesses passed on to children to run?
Philippa Taylor: We did some research with KTMG last year and we found that of the family businesses we surveyed, 50% of them were expecting to transition to the next generation in the family business. It is important that we put this in context; approximately 60% of all family business in Australia are transitioning with the decade and 70% of all business in Australia is family owned.
Question: Do you think we'll see more or less family owned and operated businesses in the coming years?
Philippa Taylor: We may not see the same family businesses in the current form but the families behind these businesses remain entrepreneurs so we'll have family businesses that might be making chocolates this year but next year they may be online business still being run, by the same family. The businesses morph and adapt to changing circumstances. Whilst this is a difficult thing to track you end up with statistics such as approximately 30% of family businesses make it to the third generation – that tracks the business not the business family.
Question: Can you talk about the longevity of a family business?
Philippa Taylor: I believe there is longevity of a family in business. When you have children that have grown up in an entrepreneurial business family the chances are more likely that those children will be entrepreneurial and be involved in their businesses whether they continue with the same family business or whether they use it as an incubator and develop their own family businesses; you still end up with the entrepreneurial family, in business.
Question: What are the common disadvantages to a family in Family Business?
Philippa Taylor: The disadvantages are usually bought about by lack of communication. The disadvantages can be when people have unrealistic expectations when you have a dictatorial parent perhaps who is not communicating with the rest of the family. We have seen some very high profile cases such as the Rinehart and the Murdoch case where the children no longer work directly for their father.
The disadvantages can be that you've got an incredibly heavy mix of love, power and money and people feel a lot more emotional about working for a boss when it happens to be their father.
The important point to make is that all disadvantages can be managed with correct professional strategies such as communication, planned family meetings and disciplines such as -let's not talk business around the dining table, keep it to the boardroom table' as well as properly written job descriptions for all the members of the family and then people will know exactly what is expected of them and then you understand how to measure performance. In too many family businesses, family members don't have job descriptions whilst all the non-family employees do because family members tend to do a little bit of everything. It is very, very difficult to measure performance and contain expectations without a job description.
Question: What is your number one tip for a family who are looking to start their own business?
Philippa Taylor: Join Family Business Australia! Family Business Australia has strategies and we help families right from the beginning and the sooner you join the better. We want families to see Family Business Australia as a gym and not a hospital! We're a not-for-profit membership organisation we want to help family businesses be sustainable, organised and professional.
Question: What will be discussed at the upcoming Australia's 14th Annual National Family Business Conference?
Philippa Taylor: One of the amazing things that happen at a Family Business Australia Conference is that you have actual family business operators talking about both their successes and their failures including things that they wish they had done if they'd had hindsight which is very powerful and critical when you have people that have walked the talk not so much advisors, professionals and academics. The stories are from family businesses that are prepared to share with other family business some of their drivers, challenges and some of the tools to overcome them. The stories told are sometimes very funny or sometime very sad stories which are what is special about a Family Business Australia Conference.
Interview by Brooke Hunter