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Family business: Taking control without breaking it

Wednesday 16 April 2014
News Release

Family business: Taking control without breaking it

Passing control from one generation to the next can make or break a family business; and as New Zealand’s ‘baby boomers’ hand over to ‘millennials’, the risks of getting it wrong have never been greater.

The new PwC research Bridging the gap: Handing over the family business to the next generation is based on its conversations with more than 200 local and global family business members, and it warns next generation family business owners need more support – especially if they’re to follow the success of the many leading New Zealand companies that began or continue as family-owned firms.

PwC Partner and Private Business Market Leader Robbie Gimblett says, “A family business transition can be likened to a game of tug of war, particularly given the nature of the family business model where some owners rarely retire.

“The next generation can be ambitious and full of ideas for change and growth, yet many expect to remain in a state of limbo and frustration. More than two-thirds tell us the current generation will find it tough to let go. We came across businesses where the next generation are in their sixties and their father is still running the show in his eighties,” adds Mr Gimblett.

The survey finds there is a tendency for some in the older generation to overestimate how well they have run the business, while underestimating their children’s ability to do this as competently as they did.

“Many New Zealand family firms face big challenges to their business models given the pace of change regarding global forces, like technological advances, demographic changes and economic power shifts. The children of the older generation wish their parents would embrace technology and be open to new ideas. With the pace of change accelerating, it may be time to give the next generation more credit and control,” advises Mr Gimblett.

The report also finds the risks to the family business, or indeed family relationships, are stacked against a successful transition: only 12 per cent of family firms make it to the third generation, with the handover for ‘first generation’ businesses even more fraught.

“The issues are most marked for those taking over from the founding owner. Twenty per cent of the next generation in these circumstances tell us they’re not looking forward to running the family business, compared to less than 10 per cent of respondents as a whole,” says Mr Gimblett.

The survey found one of the biggest challenges for the next generation is establishing credibility with colleagues, employees and customers, noted as a concern by 59 per cent.

“Credibility is hard won, with the significant majority saying they have to work harder than others to gain respect and prove they’re more than the boss’s son or daughter. And even with that hard work, promotion to CEO is also no longer automatic for the next generation, with only 35 per cent confident they would one day have this role.

“The family way of doing business has unique strengths but also unique challenges, as it isn’t always easy working with people you’re related to. The next generation want the family business to focus more on planning for succession and having conversations that address roles, responsibilities and timings early to ensure their businesses are successful for generations. Interesting times ahead,” concludes Mr Gimblett.

Infographic

Further Resources

Bridging The Gap Report - PDF


-End-
Notes to editors:

Methodology: 207 interviews were conducted with the next generation members likely to take over the family business in 21 countries – including 11 from New Zealand – with a focus on those with a sales turnover of more than US$5m. The companies were drawn from a range of sectors, with most of the sample having taken part in the 2012 PwC Family Business Survey. The interviews were conducted between 3 February and 14 March 2014 by Kudos Research, and the results analysed by Jigsaw Research.

Fast facts about the next generation
• Only 12% of family firms make it to a third generation, and only 1% beyond the fifth
• The next generation is ambitious, with 86% wanting to do something significant and special
• 80% have big ideas for change and growth
• 88% say they have to work harder than others to ‘prove themselves’
• 59% say gaining the respect of their co-workers is their biggest challenge
• Only 7% went into the family firm straight from work, with 31% going to university first and 46% working for another company before joining the family business.
• 87% think their parents have confidence in them and 91% would value their continued input. But as many as 64% think the current generation will find it tough to let go.

Why is it important family and private businesses are successful?
• Family and private businesses represent nearly 75% of New Zealand businesses
• These businesses employ around 80% of the workforce
• Many of New Zealand’s most high profile business began as family-owned firms, or in some cases, continue to be family-owned firms.

PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details.

© 2014 PricewaterhouseCoopers. All rights reserved.

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