It is often said that passing a family business to the third generation is a lot more difficult than to the second and so it proved for us.
We thought we had it settled, with our two children working, through their own choice, in our business. Then suddenly there was a big change in family relationships and within a couple of months not only had both our children left the business, but left the country as well. At 65 years old we had no idea what to do with the business that we had spent years building.
By chance one of us had heard Anita speak at a function and we decided to contact her. When we met with her she was not fazed by what we said and thought she could help but was honest about telling us all that the journey would not be easy.
Anita hit the ground running and was very soon exploring the family relationships and asking sometimes awkward questions of all of us. This included her making long haul flights to, as she said, “look everyone in the eye”.
Looking back, if anyone had told us that we could get to where we are now we would not have believed them. Anita’s negotiating skills and understanding of family relationships are excellent.
The end result of a difficult journey over seven or so years is that our son and his family are back in the UK and he is settled as Managing Director of the business. Anita has continued to mentor and encourage training and broadening of his experience. She has become a friend who we feel we will have for years to come.
Part of the process negotiated at the beginning was to produce a Family Charter which, to be honest, at first we didn’t really see as important, but putting this together helped bring us all together and we now have a lovely record and view of the business history and idea of the future. We would recommend Anita to any family business.
At 65 years old we had no idea what to do with the business that we had spent years building.
Our small, unique, 4th generation family manufacturing business is precious to us. My business partner brothers and I were nervous about bringing in an outsider to help us visualise and rationalise a workable succession plan. Encouraged by glowing reviews we cautiously approached Anita. When I met with her, she rapidly put me at my ease and I was soon to realise the reviews were spot on. She was quick to grasp many of the complexities and intricacies not only of our quite unique business but also the wider family dynamics at play; such a key factor.
The Partners had recognised the need for change but had been struggling to find a way forward. Anita’s arrival on the scene has given the process much needed momentum. I felt Anita took a great personal interest in us and our business. She is a careful listener and her approach gentle and extremely positive, yet she is not afraid to be very frank when she feels it necessary. Remarkably she seems to have time for everyone; always approachable, she emphasises that her ‘door is always open’ to her clients.
Shareholder, 4th generation Manufacturing Company
I was introduced to Anita at a trade lunch where she was the guest speaker. Anita outlined the difficulties facing family businesses, in particular the transition from one generation to the next.
This struck a chord as our own two children, having previously worked within the second generation business, had moved to Australia. My wife and I were contemplating the way forward as we sought to ease away from daily involvement. At that time, it seemed unlikely that there would be a third generation of family participation.
On a brief visit to England our son met with Anita and from there she established his and our wishes and desires for the future. Anita then patiently used her skills and experience to work with the whole family in England and in Australia to define potential future roles, achieve a consensus, help to get our son excited about joining the family business whilst also helping him understand what it meant to be accountable and to hit the ground running – it’s not about entitlement, rather proving his worth.
Our son had to grasp the concept of making money to keep jobs afloat in a challenging market on a daily basis.
Everything began with independent conversations in order for Anita to be able to grasp the issues and then getting the family together to begin the hard journey of entering into an honest, open relationship whereby every person could have their say.
This was no easy task for everyone. Anita’s skills had to be a mixture of diplomacy and empathy; asking the hard questions, telling a few home truths; encouraging everyone’s input; make a plan and being able to stand back as the relationships began to take shape and gain strength through building trust and a vision for the future.
Throughout Anita showed great dedication and empathy and surmounted what were at times considerable challenges. All businesses are faced with challenges, it’s what we expect, and any business is a work in progress.
In our experience, Anita achieved a positive outcome which seemed at one time unlikely.
I can highly commended Anita and her own family business.
“Anita’s interpersonal skills have proven to be invaluable to our family business. At a time when it seemed that our succession and family relationships were getting beyond repair she gave us hope that she could help. Her efforts knew no bounds and she has worked tirelessly to achieve what we had thought might be impossible and continues to do so.”
Managing Director, 3rd generation transport company
“We were having a very difficult time with my Father who couldn’t step back from the business. It was causing real frustration for my brother and I and creating tensions between us as a family, to the point where we couldn’t even talk to each other without erupting. A friend recommended us to Anita and she soon became the voice of reason. She got us communicating with our Father and we soon understood why he felt like he did which made it easier to work towards a resolution. If your family business is having trouble, it’s best to call someone like Anita sooner rather than later otherwise there might not be a business or a family left to save.”
3rd generation, manufacturing business
“The advice from Anita and her team has been extremely helpful. We had a very long and productive day together yesterday, and made considerable progress. It seems to have been a catalyst in itself, and we have done some unprecedented work in exploring where we want to be, and have arrived at a consensus position (most unexpected!). As we enter what will be a long and possibly tortuous process, it’s good to know there is someone to turn to who can help us along that path.”
4th generation shareholder in a cousin consortium
“I’ve known Anita for a number of years and during this time she never ceases to amaze me with her knowledge of the UK’s family business sector. Her greatest talent is undoubtedly the time and expertise she brings to confidential family business mediation, advice and succession planning. It is here that her insider knowledge, garnered from years of talking to multi-generation family business owners, is fused with discretion and diplomacy as she guides business owners through their options and opportunities. When it comes to the unique world of the family business, Anita is simply the best.”
David Philpott – Institute of Directors