Family businesses are different
...and the skills required to advise them need to reflect that fact.
So says Nick Love, Family Business Partner with Princecroft Willis (PcW).
Together with the firm’s specialist team of advisers, Nick sees at first hand every day the peaks – and pitfalls – of running a family business.
And, according to Nick, the sector has fared better than many in weathering the effects of the economic downturn.
He said: "The recession has affected different industries and sectors in different ways.
"Family businesses have tended to fare better because they have the longevity as well as the resources – both human and financial – to withstand a downturn.
"One of my clients has been in business for 35 years and this is the third recession he’s seen, albeit probably worse than the others. He’s survived the others and he’ll survive this."
So what makes a family business different from other managed companies?
"Quite obviously the family element. There might have been several generations involved in the business," explained Nick.
"Succession – or passing on the baton to future generations - is always uppermost in the minds of family businesses.
"But finding a suitable role for a family member can be difficult. Family businesses sometimes have to be big enough to admit that the pool of experience and depth of quality does not exist in the family and they need to look outside for the right person."
And, according to Nick, that’s where problems can occur – and an independent adviser from the likes of Princecroft Willis can prove invaluable.
He said: "Sometimes you need to say ‘stop’, clear away the emotions and apply clear business logic and common-sense.
"You also need to be a good people person. I’m not a trained sociologist but, inevitably, you can’t help but wander into these areas.
"You need to be a diplomat, keep your counsel, cajole and, when required, move people’s positions which can sometimes get entrenched.
"Above all you have to protect the family’s finances and ensure they are employing the most efficient tax methods."
As the largest firm of independent chartered accountants and business advisers in Dorset and the New Forest, PcW counts many family businesses among its 6,000 clients.
It has also sponsored the Family Business of the Year category in the Dorset Business Awards since 2006.
Nick said: "Family businesses are different. They know it, feel it and are extraordinarily open in sharing their problems with an audience.
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