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Edition 32 – Lessons From Melbourne

Last week I attended the 2016 Family Business Australia conference in Melbourne. It was a fantastic three days of learning and connecting with other family business owners and advisors from all over Australia.

Here’s some of my takeaways:

  1. Creativity — it’s the key issue facing family business owners and managers right now. If you’re not creative, you’re not innovative. If you’re not innovative, you’re not evolving your family business.
  2. Failure — is not only good, it’s essential. One presenter coined the term FAIL as the First Attempt ILearning. Every family business, bar none, has failed at something. The key is what you learn from the experience and how you bounce back.
  3. Values — the family’s values must drive the family business. If your family does not agree on its values, it can’t formulate its vision. No vision, and you’re on a meandering path of reactivity.
  4. Resilience — whenever you think you’ve had a really bad day in business, think about how family businesses in the Middle East cope with turning up to work in the morning, only to find the building has been destroyed in an overnight act of war. Some family businesses have rebuilt up to 20 times, and still keep going.
  5. Purpose — if profit is your key driver in business, your business is unsustainable. You have a business with no purpose, which won’t engage clients, employees or the owners.
  6. Fracture — second and third generation family businesses can be torn apart when family members that work in the business have a different viewpoint to those that are merely shareholders. Aligning the business goals with the family goals helps to mitigate this issue. It can also save the entire family relationship.
  7. Ethics — Australia has one of the worst ratings for overdue trade creditors of any nation in the world – worse than Mexico at 26 days beyond the due date. Family businesses that work for large corporates or government suffer the most. The Australian Small Business & Family Enterprise Ombudsman will shortly conduct an inquiry into this practice.
  8. Plan for the Unexpected — one family business suffered when the patriarch and matriarch were killed in a car accident overseas. Thankfully, family were part of the management team, so understood the business. However, the intense emotion of losing not only parents but work colleagues and mentors all in one can act can place a heavy toll on the surviving family members.

Family Business are a huge contributor to the Australian economy. 50% of employment is created by family businesses and they represent 70% of all businesses in Australia.

Family Business Australia, as the sector’s peak body, engages with government, industry and academia to ensure the sector thrives and with it, so does our country. It was great to spend a few days hearing the stories of success, opportunity and innovation in an open and sharing environment.

This Week’s Tip

When was the last time you stepped outside your family business and took the time to engage with others, learn and ponder alternate opportunities?