Working with family businesses
The Dorset office of Princecroft Willis, the largest independent firm of chartered accountants and business advisers in Dorset and West Hampshire, is based at their prestigious offices at Towngate House. Here they are able to house all of their specialist advisory team, training and IT facilities under one roof.
Princecroft Willis has been actively involved in advising the Family Business sector for a number of years headed by their Family Business Partner Nick Love.
"When you realise that around 75% of the businesses employing between 5 and 250 people are family run you see that family businesses play a vital part in the local and national economy" commented Nick. "This is why we are delighted to recognise the key role they play by sponsoring the Princecroft Willis Family Business of the Year Award." He added.
As part of their active involvement in this sector the firm is a Corporate Member of the International Centre for Families in Business and Nick holds a place on their Professional Intermediary Services board.
2008 saw Princecroft Willis undertake one of the first Family Business surveys in the south. When asked why, Nick said "In order to provide focused advice and guidance to the family members it is vital to identify and understand their unique challenges."
The firm was delighted at the response to the survey, particularly the fact that there was a complete cross section of participants from both business sectors and stages of business development. These ranged from businesses founded in the last ten years, still in the hands of the first generation to one founded in 1872 that is now run by the fourth generation.
As you may expect, the needs of the family were one of the top business drivers, not only the generation involved in the day to day operations but also the support and provision of the retired generations.
Certainly, a number of the businesses that had been handed down indicated that supporting the retired generations created financial pressures and in some cases the development of the business had to be balanced with the needs of the family. In these circumstances strategic decisions may cease to be purely business based.
The big question we asked was the impact that succession had on the business and it was interesting that whilst 39% had a succession plan, only 6% had committed it to paper. Although the plan was in the founders head there appeared to be a reluctance to formally "hand over the reins".
Indeed, at a recent Princecroft Willis Family Business Club meeting it was interesting that some of the younger generations had concerns over replacing the skills of the founders, in particular the strategic skills that they had developed. For many the founder had a "gut feel" that enabled them to react to changing business conditions and draw on experience in their decision making.
In short the survey provided a real insight into some of the key issues that face the family business which means they can focus their consultancy skills and business club in these areas.
"At one of our meetings someone coined the phrase keeping the family in business and the business in the family and I think that perfectly sums up our aim" added Nick.
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