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Family businesses are helped to carry on

The Family Business Australia WA chapter has held its first workshop for members.

The organisation provides advice and services to family owned business and their professional advisors under the motto enabling families in business to achieve unity of purpose.

Family business expert Lucio Dana said, based on Monash University’s 1997 Australian Family and Private Business Survey, family-controlled business represented 83 per cent of total private sector firms in Australia.

“There are conflicts and unique dynamics in family business,” Mr Dana said.

“Becoming aware of these dynamics and gaining tools to resolve them is the key to success.

“However, solutions can appear deceptively simple.”

FBA WA chapter director and treasurer Ken Webb said feedback from members revealed family businesses had similar problems.

“The primary motivating for joining the FBA appears to be to resolve tensions within the family,” Mr Webb said.

“Business patterns and practices cannot help but be deeply

influenced by the reality of the family system, which is often characterised by competitiveness and rivalry.”

Mr Dana said family members could not just talk about business differences. They brought with them not just the issue at hand, but a lifetime history of expectations, assumptions, unfulfilled desires and even pain.

He said it was often the case that the forces that weaken were stronger than those binding the family together.

Succession planning, or business continuity, was a major concern for family business.

“It is a process – not an event that happens overnight,” Mr Dana said.

“It’s like passing the baton in a relay race. The next generation must be well prepared but the previous generation has to know when to let go.

“When handing a business over to your children, don’t be a CEO – become a chairman.”

Allowing for those with an original intention to sell, 30 per cent of family businesses make it to the second generation, with 15 per cent making it to the third, according to the Monash survey.

Mr Dana said this was a high rate considering the difficulty of succession.

He said the total wealth of family business in Australia was $1.2 trillion, representing three times the total capitalisation of Australian companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Over the next decade, the retirement of family business owners will accompany the transfer of ownership of an estimated $607 billion of wealth.

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