4 top tips from successful women in family firms

| March 29, 2018

Family businesses account for around 70% of all businesses in Australia. And it seems women are leading the way, doing far better in leadership and management positions in family businesses than those in the non-family business sector. For example, 80% of family-owned businesses have at least one female director whereas only 17.7% of companies in the FTSE 100 have women on the board.

This post shares a few handy tips from women in family businesses both here and abroad. Here’s hoping you pick up a thing or two to help yours succeed too.

1. Defining goals

Many family-run enterprises share a common goal fostered on trust, loyalty and cohesion. This goal is often about ensuring future generations are supported and protected, rather than short-term profit margins – which can make for a much healthier society!

Goals are key to success as they are measurable. So how’s your family business doing on this score?

Ask yourself:

On a scale of 1-10 how passionate are you about your family business? Why? This will help with goal setting.
Do you have clearly defined goals written down?
Are these shared by everyone in your family group?
Can you easily articulate your goals?

2. Cementing formal structures

One challenge many family businesses face is ensuring formal business structures are in place so they can quickly capitalise when opportunities present themselves. Corrina Wright, sixth-generation member of the Oliver winemaking family in McLaren Vale, offers advice on this front.

“Roles and structure are key as is running the business professionally with a business/finance diligence that would rival publically listed companies – not just an unstructured, unprofessional mess. Think about succession planning and industry wages too. It’s helpful if these are written down and discussed regularly,” she says.

Ask yourself:

Do you have formal structures and processes in place for both family and business?
Are you sure everyone is aware of – and understands – them?
Have you taken the time to document family and business policies?

3. Being open to change

Change comes in many forms in business – in processes, ideas and even personnel. And Trisha D. Lemery certainly knows how to change it up.

In 2008, she took over the reins as CEO of Winset Inc (a leading global provider of alloy solutions) right as the global recession hit. But instead of cowering, she used her innovation skills to propel the company in a new direction product-wise. Along the way, she created a work environment championing work-life balance, allowing more women to join her company in senior positions in a traditionally male dominated field. Her ability to be open to change culminated in her winning EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year National Family Business in 2016.

Ask yourself:

How is your family business doing on the innovation front?
Are you open to change? If you aren’t, why? Can you change this?
What can you do to create a more innovative and inclusive work environment?

4. Get educated

According to Family Business Australia, the most concerning issues for family businesses are how to balance family concerns and business interests as well as how to maintain control. For Patricia Ghany, CFO at Esau Oilfield Supplies Co. in Trinidad, West Indies, her solution to these problems was to engage in specific family business education.

“Education has given me a different perspective of how to professionalise our family business. We have been able to better engage in emotionally charged conversations about succession planning, share distribution, the role of outside directors and the option to sell our business. It has also allowed me to network with other family owned businesses, especially women, and to learn from their experiences,” she says.

Ask yourself:

As a family business, what issues do you struggle with the most?
Have you considered seeking help from a family business specialist or advisor?
Do you participate in any specific family business education?

While being a part of family business can be very challenging, the rewards far outweigh the difficulties, particularly for women. If you’re interested in learning more about the importance of specific family business education, please contact us at Insights as we have many more tools and tricks of the trade we’re happy to share.

This blog was originally published at Insights.