Date posted: September 14, 2016

It’s something family businesses may worry about but too few talk about: the question of ‘entrepreneurial renewal’ – or how to sustain the innovative spirit that bred the company’s early success in subsequent generations.

With National Family Business Day on next Monday (September 19), Family Business Australia SA is urging business owners to look at three key areas to secure their longevity: their entrepreneurial renewal, governance and marketing strategy.

It is said that family businesses are the backbone of the economy, with many of Australia’s largest and most loved companies starting off as family businesses – such as Taylors Wines, Coopers Brewery and Haigh’s Chocolates – and it was in everyone’s interests that they succeed.

Dr Chris Graves, co-director and founder of the Family Business Education and Research Group (FBERG) at the University of Adelaide, says these three pillars are key to a family business’ ongoing success as the next generations take over.

“There is no guarantee that the next generation will have the driven, entrepreneurial mindset that the business was founded on, so it’s a question of how you go about developing that culture.”

Dr Graves says that as successive generations enter the business, it was important to look at the business’ core premise, and work out how the business model could be competitively sustained in the future.

He notes family businesses are sometimes wary about bringing in “outsiders” as part of a governance team, but it was advantageous to have an external perspective from non-family advisors who are at arms length from the day to day running, Dr Graves says.

“Short of a formal board of directors, a step forward is to create an advisory board that meets regularly through the year, and is made up of relevant expertise – such as legal, financial or marketing – and talk through the issues the business is facing,” he says.

“It’s important to have that sounding board, otherwise it’s just you and your team and you won’t necessarily have all best answers.”

Dr Graves says strong marketing was another overlooked plank. FBERG surveys show a number of family-owned businesses thought the quality of their product or service was their key competitive advantage, but he says that without a strong marketing plan to back it, these businesses would never realize their sales potential and would remain “hidden champions”.

To help address this, FBA and the University of Adelaide are hosting a seminar for family business owners, advisors and policy-makers on ‘The Value of Family Branding’ which will look at the question of how and when overt family branding can assist a business.

The seminar will be held on September 19, and will hear from industry leaders Coopers Brewery chair Glenn Cooper, KWP! chair Andrew Killey and Lowen Partridge, founder of Peartree Brand Strategy. They will discuss the fundamentals for developing an effective marketing strategy and when – and how – incorporating ‘familiness’ can create a competitive advantage.

For more information on ‘The Value of Family Branding’ seminar for National Family Business Day, click here.