06/07/2004 - 22:00

Unique pressures combine to drive business performance

06/07/2004 - 22:00


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Proving that Australia is a nation of entrepreneurs, family business is the largest sector in the Australian economy.

Unique pressures combine to drive business performance

Proving that Australia is a nation of entrepreneurs, family business is the largest sector in the Australian economy.

Families command considerable resources through the control and management of businesses.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in its Business Longitudinal Survey determined that approximately half of all Australian businesses are family businesses (ABS, 1997).

These enterprises generate more than half of Australia’s employment growth, account for about 40 per cent of our private sector output and, importantly, are the seedbed for innovation. 

Recently, BRW’s survey of Australia’s top 500 private companies (Matterson, October 2002) revealed not only that over half of these firms are family owned, but also that they generate total revenue of more than $70 billion.   

Most people appreciate that it’s not easy to run a successful business, and everyone knows that it’s not easy to run a happy and successful family. Imagine, then, the tensions when the two are mixed together. 

Family business is often described as the heady mix of money, power and love.

Over the next six to 10 years it is estimated that roughly half of this ownership, wealth and power will be transferred, either from one generation to the next, or just sold. The effects of this will be immense, especially since, according to the Australian Society of Certified Practicing Accounts, only one in 10 businesses has a firm plan for transfer. 

This makes family business extraordinarily important.

Family business issues are universal. Marketing consultants tell us how important it is to divide the market into segments, but we’ve found this hard.  Pratt Industries, which turns over about $1.5 billion annually, is a family-owned business; so is the average corner milk bar. Most observers would say that these two operations have virtually nothing in common, but they would be wrong.

The range of family business is all embracing.  Virtually every farm, most retailers, manufacturers, and contractors are working with family. People often confuse small business with family business – something that the larger family businesses must surely sometimes find irritating.

While there are lots of business, trade and professional organisations, none is set up to advise specifically on the sorts of issues that uniquely affect family business.

As many of these issues are personal, there is often a reluctance to discuss them.

In the past the situation for families all over Australia facing very similar business and personal catastrophes has been one of frustration, as they had nowhere to go for advice.

In response to issues like these FBA runs seminars, lectures and events where family business operators have the opportunity to learn from each other.

We bring internationally recognised family business experts to Australia. 

We publish Generations, a magazine for families in business and also operate the fambiz website.

We encourage and facilitate research into family business issues and we run the Australian Family Business of the Year Awards, recognising the economic and social contribution of families in business.

The next big event on the FBA calendar is the Sixth National Conference, to be held in Surfers’ Paradise from August 19 to 21.

As FBA national chairman Jason Lea said in his recent message to members: “We have responded to your feedback after our very successful 2003 conference in Tasmania, and included some war stories in the program.

“We thought we wouldn’t find family business operators willing to tell you what went wrong – but we underestimated the commitment and generosity of our membership.

“We have two family business operators who will tell us how they were caught unawares by circumstances beyond their control – and how they dealt with their respective situations.

“We have also created more opportunity for our members to interact with speakers and each other – for you have told us that the best way to learn is from each other.”

2003 FBA Winners

Ist generation winner - Jah Roc Furniture

2nd generation winner - Gavin Construction

3rd generation AND youth award - D Trandos & Sons

4th generation - Harvey beef (EG Green and Sons)

Best family business employer - Fotek School Portraits WA

2002 FBA Winners

Ist generation winner - Messages On Hold

2nd generation winner - Homestyle Vegetable Processors

3rd generation - J Pilpel & Co

4th generation - WD Moore & Co

Best family business employer - STS Health


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