Family owned business initiative

The initiative was launched in October 2008 with an introductory forum outlining some of the strengths and challenges that family owned businesses face. It was extremely well received by many Cayman family owned businesses and a series of forums have taken place since.

RBS Coutts’ Managing Director David I. Foster commented, “The aim of the initiative is to help families ask the right questions at the right time, to avoid some of the most common pitfalls and consider some of the possible solutions for their family business”.

One of the recent forums was on succession. Research has shown that only 13 per cent of family businesses survive beyond the third generation. Plan succession properly, then the business can survive for several generations to come.

Mr. Foster offered this advice: “The key objectives of succession are typically to protect family harmony, family wealth and the family business but during this period of generational transition, the business is at its most vulnerable and emotions run high. The transition of the family business raises complex and emotion laden problems and with so many public tales of acrimony and legal wrangling in relation to business succession, it is little wonder that many family business founders fail to plan.

However, ironically, it is this very failure to plan that causes the disharmony that they try so hard to avoid in the first place.

“By planning ahead, effective succession strategies can be formulated and implemented in an open and positive environment. There is every reason for optimism.

“Whilst no two family businesses will ever be the same, there are three core elements common to all; the family, the business and the owners. A change in the make up, structure or dynamics in any one of those three elements will inevitably impact the other two. Good succession planning means being cognisant of this fact and adopting a holistic approach to transitional management.

“Succession planning should therefore be separated into the succession of ownership and the succession of management. It may be, for example, that the best solution is for ownership of the business to remain within the family but the management is left in the hands of outside professionals. Whatever the outcome, it is important that business decisions are taken for business reasons and not family ones, as often happens.
“Managing the succession process in a family business tends to be most successful when it results from a well planned partnership with the next generation. This partnership hinges upon effective communication and a clearly aligned vision between current and future generations.

“Succession planning and management need not be the horror story of family skeletons and feuds. If well planned, it can be a period of great growth and fulfillment for both the family and the business”.
Further forums are planned in 2011. If you would like to know more contact:

Richard Singleton
RBS Coutts
T:  945 4777
E:      richard.singleton @coutts.com

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