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Edition 414 – Hinterland

Last weekend, I was a guest presenter at the annual retreat for the Family Business Association Forum Groups hosted by my friend and colleague, Andrew Barter, in Montville in the beautiful Sunshine Coast Hinterland in South East Queensland.

FBA’s Forum Groups are, in essence, a mastermind group for family business owners, across different industries, from different parts of a city, or a state. Being in business can be lonely, and to have a group of trusted colleagues in your inner circle, who are living through, or have lived through, the issues that you yourself are facing, helps make the day to day happenings in business, just that bit easier to deal with.

The workshop I led was all about \”What’s your Exit: What’s your Next?\” At some stage, we’ll all move on from the ownership of our family businesses and this was the opportunity to speak with a great bunch of family business owners and help them start to give deeper consideration to not only whether they’ll exit their business to a third party or transition it to the next generation in business, but what they were planning for the next stage in their lives.

pending a couple of days with close to 20 people, and engaging in many and varied conversations about a wide range of topics, here’s some of my takeaways:

  1. FBA’s Forum Groups are the trusted sounding board for business owners whose problems, ideas and lightbulb moments might otherwise only remain inside the cranial cavity of the individual business owners.
  2. Vulnerability is the key to gaining the most out of the relationships amongst others in the group. I told some of my own life and business story, including some quite raw and personal experiences, with a view to displaying that just because you’re at the front of the room, doesn’t mean you’re the font of all knowledge, nor perfect. The vulnerability displayed from the group in return was ten-fold.
  3. For families that have owned businesses for multiple generations, it’s not about maximising profit and capital value. It’s about custodianship of the family legacy and leaving it in a better condition for the next generation, than you yourself received it from the last.
  4. None of the great questions that came from the floor were focussed on the technicalities of the business. Every single person in the room is desiring to be a better business owner, a better employer and a better contributor to our society as a whole. The way they go about doing that, be they a fourth generation cane farmer from North Queensland, or a building products manufacturer located in western Brisbane, might vary, but their intent to be better at it, doesn’t.
  5. This group of people were a mere snapshot of the absolute beating heart of the Australian economy. 60% of GDP and almost two-thirds of the Australian workforce are employed by small and family business. Their individual voices can be drowned out by the corporate tycoons, or political players, who think they know how life should be for all of us, and don’t mind telling us so. My advice to those large corporates and the politicians is this – small and family businesses employ more people than you, pay more tax than you, build this country’s future better than you and help those in their orbit build a better life for themselves, than you do. They deserve far greater respect, in terms of your policies, the way you do business with them and your time, than what you are affording them now.

The view from Montville, back towards the golden beaches of the Sunshine Coast last Saturday was gorgeous. As Mount Coolum stood in the distance, right on the edge of the glorious Pacific Ocean, the gigantic window in the meeting room, that framed the scene, was the perfect metaphor. Expand your view – look out and away from what’s in front of you, and consider the deeper questions about business and life, that you don’t otherwise have the opportunity to contemplate, when you’re stuck in the weeds, day in and day out, in business.

This Week’s Tip

“To find out more about Family Business Association Forum Groups, take a look here –“.