Date posted: May 27, 2018

Name: Rosemary Carreras
Role: Principal and Leader of the Estates and Succession team.
Company: Coleman Greig

How long have you been working with family businesses?
Since joining Coleman Greig in 2011, I started working with family businesses in a more focused way. I say this because over my 28 years as a lawyer, I have worked with family businesses in some way or another, particularly when I was a property lawyer advising on leasing or sales and purchases. It wasn’t until I joined the Coleman Greig family that I became involved with FBA. The firm and my predecessor FBA Accredited Advisors, Paul Lucas and Clas Einberg, have always had a close affiliation with FBA and I was lucky enough to work alongside Paul and Clas on business and estate succession matters and in turn, join the FBA network

What’s one of the most common mistakes you see in family businesses?
I think it’s when owners and the Next Generation let emotions or ego get in the way of what’s best for the business. It’s common to witness owners with resistance to change, and not wanting to pass on control or let go of the reigns when it’s time. I often see instances where non-family managers or a board member is seen to be calling the shots, or times where a family member feels like a sibling or non-family employee is favoured and has more of a voice than them.

In my view, a lot of the mistakes I see are a result of poor communication between stakeholders. One of the most challenging things as an advisor is remembering that every family is different and often problems like sibling rivalry go back to birth (I call it the Jan Brady syndrome- “everything is Marcia, Marcia Marcia!”). I think an advisor attuned to the uniqueness of consulting to family businesses needs to accept that you can’t change people or the past. The key however though is to somehow recommend and help implement strategies (often with the assistance of other advisors) that don’t further fracture relationships, all the while maintaining as much of the equilibrium as possible when change management occurs.

What do you enjoy most or find most rewarding about working with family businesses?
Honestly, I’d have to say, it’s working with and collaborating with like-minded advisors, which are usually from other disciplines. Family systems are complex because you have the overlap between the family, the business system, the ownership, and the governance system, and as an advisor, you need to know where your boundaries are. As a lawyer, I have to accept that my role is necessarily defined. I can’t be all things to the whole family system and will usually need to rely on and call on the expertise of other advisors (for example, accountants, financial advisors, business consultants, social workers and the list goes on), at some point in the brief. It’s all about being a good team player in the group of trusted advisors. Coleman Greig has really enjoyed hosting the Western Sydney Advisor Connect Breakfasts as we get to meet and learn from other wonderful advisors in a very relaxed environment.