IT has been fun, a humbling experience and also a privilege being involved in the FBA Family Business Awards for the past three years. Running a (very small) business myself, I tip my hat to the dedication and impressive results these businesses have been
It has been fun, a humbling experience and also a privilege being involved in the FBA Family Business Awards for the past three years. Running a (very small) business myself, I tip my hat to the dedication and impressive results these businesses have been turning in, year on year, generation upon generation, almost unnoticed.
There’s no puffery here, just honest hard toil, and this is why these awards are by far my favourite to observe and participate in. The businesses are so ‘busy’, that they have little time (or even desire, it must be said) to enter awards programs.
This makes the easy entry option a clever innovation. In 2002, the dean of the UWA business school asked us to form a team of MBA graduates/students to help these companies process their nominations, and it has been a delightful experience.
So what we did notice? Does a family business have an extra ingredient to help explain its success? Can we learn from them?
A natural concern for outsiders looking in might be the reliance on family management - surely an Achilles heel as they pass on through the generations?
We found this was not the case - on two counts. Firstly, many have gone outside their immediate families to find the best management available, and have maybe returned to the family management later on.
Secondly, often the family management can be exactly what the business needs. Be it Alex Gregg of Richard Noble (4th generation winner in 2004) or Dennis and Allan Cerinich (2nd generation winners this year), the inbuilt dynamism and strong purpose of the family leaders has driven the businesses forward.
But there’s an extra dimension here not commonly found in business.
Passion was a common feature in all the successful businesses. Most winners interviewed on the stage at this year’s awards gala night declared that passion was their secret ingredient. This was a determination that springs from more than mere ownership of the enterprise.
Theirs was a sense of belonging and purpose that you can almost touch.
If we are to learn from those who like to ‘keep it in the family’, then in our businesses we could do well to foster this P word - and perhaps its offspring would surely follow - performance, productivity and profit.
On behalf of the easy entry team I’d like to thank all those businesses that allowed us to enter into their lives for a brief time.
A special thanks, too to WA Business News for highlighting these otherwise unsung organisations, and to UWA Business School for its sponsorship, which allows our team to operate.
• Charlie Gunningham is co-director of Aussiehome.com and coordinator of the UWA GSM easy entry program.