By Philippa Taylor, CEO Family Business Australia
Economists and financial advisers have been put on notice that the impending transfer of 68 percent of family owned business this decade will have severe ramifications for the economy.
While alarm bells ring when it is realized that only a third of these family owned companies, with an overall wealth of $3.4 trillion (RMIT Boyd 2003) have a plan for exit, the obvious question is `why’. Why have family business owners not planned for the day they step down, retire, fall off the perch?
Some family business advisers say it is because while they well know what they are retiring from, many do not know what they are retiring to. These entrepreneurial, dynamic people, the backbone of our economy, have perhaps not had the time to learn to play golf, or fish – and cannot imagine a time when their advice is no longer sought or their opinion needed.
So we must ask – have those doomsayers, observers and commentators been looking to the wrong generation to make the move?
Is it up to the next generation to show that they are ready, willing and able and above all – that the role their forefathers have played is respected and recognized?
A young group of family business entrepreneurs has emerged within Family Business Australia, the peak national body for families in business, and they are pushing to take up roles in their own right while working with the incumbent generation in planning for the future.
Adele Levinge, who works with her father Bert Dennis of the Dennis Family Corporation, perhaps best known for their company Dennis Family Homes, is leading the charge with support of a young, vibrant National Family Business Australia committee. Melbourne’s representative is Michael Wittner and he is keen to see many more young NSW & ACT family business ‘next geners’ join him in the move to carve an identity for those aspiring to take over the family business. “We meet regularly, with ‘next geners’ from all over Australia, where we develop our skills, prepare for succession and learn to be heard and have influence in family business decisions,” said Michael
A similar organization to Family Business Australia, the international Family Business Network has groups founded on the same principles. According to Adele, these groups are particularly strong in Spain, Italy and England. “In Europe, these groups are becoming extremely influential and are in a position to lobby governments on employment issues, taxation, capital gains etc. There are a whole range of issues that the next generation see that are not necessarily top of the current generation’s agenda,” said Adele.
According to members of the Family Business Australia group, the next generation is crying out for better communication and a realistic involvement in their businesses, but many in the managing generation see this as unnecessary. It is say the Next Geners, as much about changing and adapting management styles to suit today’s fast paced working environment as anything else.
For the generation in waiting, the business contacts have often been those of the older generation. There is now an opportunity for Next Geners to move out from the shadow of their parents, and develop their own networks of support and business contacts.
If you are a `Next Gener’ and wish to meet other like minded family business future leaders, contact Family Business Australia, 1800 249 357 www.fambiz.com.au. Family Business Australia will hold its 9th National Conference at the Hyatt, Canberra from the 23-25th August. See information adjacent.