Date posted: April 12, 2018

Name: Josephine Christmas
Company: Christmas & Volling

How long have you been working with family businesses?
Realistically I feel that I have always worked with family businesses, over many years and several generations. At times wearing different hats as the situations demanded. However only in recent years did I decide to join FBA.

What’s one of the most common mistakes you see in family businesses?
Not finding time to communicate with each other, and/or actively avoiding discussions that they find too uncomfortable to have. I spend considerable time with rural families and in many circumstances they are not run by Boards but often by one or two strong individuals. As a result, there is often great talent within the various family members which is not taken advantage of or developed to its full potential. For many “in control” they are caught up still working in the family business instead of taking a step back and working on the business and the family for that matter. Communication is vital.
Sadly in a family business by not preparing the next generation to take on responsibility early enough can create major threats to the business and the family. In my opinion, with a family business the responsibility given to the generations coming through often gets greater as time goes on.

What is your “uh ha” moment with your clients? When they realise…
1. …it’s not that hard. That there is a process and support for the various generations to enable them to develop and to determine future options as a family and as a family business. That using an independent adviser can create an environment that is more controlled and safer to ensure all members are heard and appreciated.
2. As a professional accountant, we are often identifying problems and resolving particular issues for people. However, as an adviser working with a family business you need to help people and give support but not tell them what they must do.
3. That they can talk to someone and lighten the load. I am still surprised by what people will talk about and the confidence they place in me. It is a real privilege to be involved and trusted.
4. They don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past (in their mind).
5. The legacy they feel responsible for and making sure the family business succeeds. Often until people actually start talking they don’t know themselves just how they are truly feeling. When you see this happening to people you realize yourself how life changing events can be.