Optimistic, entrepreneurial and adept businesses are set to shape the future of Australian family business

family businessDr. Chris Graves and Dr. Jill Thomas, from the ABS’ Family Business Education and Research Group (FBERG) have partnered for the second time with KPMG and Family Business Australia to conduct the longest running survey of its kind into family business. Heavily relied on by family business owners and their advisers to inform critical business decisions, the Family Business Survey’s much-anticipated results are shared with over 6000 firms across Australia.

Since 2005, the survey has aimed to better understand the unique nature, opportunities and challenges faced by family owned businesses, given that they represent two thirds of the Australian business community. Family Business Survey 2015 sought to identify key trends shaping the future of Australian family business and how family-owned businesses are embracing change. And this time it went even deeper, identifying the characteristics of high performing family businesses.According to results collected by Dr. Graves and Dr. Thomas, high performing family businesses have an entrepreneurial culture, as well as diversity in their leadership team and externally focused business management practices.

Overall, the 2015 survey found five factors shaping the future of Australian family business:

  1. Objectives and performance: In particular, balancing business objectives with family objectives was one of the top reasons for family conflict
  2. Managing and resolving conflict: Over 80% of respondents had faced conflict or tension in the past 12 months over vision, goals and strategy; balancing business/family needs; and a lack of communication
  3. Technological change and future outlook: The majority are optimistic about future growth prospects and say technological change creates a positive business impact
  4. Evolving governance mechanisms: More formal governance mechanisms are used, allowing greater agreement and communication of family, business and shareholder expectations
  5. Preparing for leadership and ownership transitions: While businesses are more prepared for exit/succession than in 2013, 55% don’t believe their successor is ready, needing additional skills in financial management, strategic planning and leading/managing people

What’s most encouraging for the sector is that almost 80% of the 1700 family businesses surveyed were optimistic about future growth prospects and are becoming increasingly adept at managing and facilitating change. As Bill Noyce, KPMG Private Enterprise, adds, “We are seeing optimism about future growth with positive attitudes towards technological change. This is such a promising outlook for generational transitions.”

The FBERG team’s involvement in this high profile survey perfectly complements the reason why ABS established this specialist education and research group in 2011: In response to the significant contribution that family businesses make to national economies around the world, and the need for research and education that addresses the unique issues they face.

Needless to say the national impact of the survey is enormous. Not only do Australia’s family businesses heavily rely on survey results for decision making, but both KPMG and Family Business Australia extend the depth of its reach. While KPMG shares the Australian Business Survey results with its clients, providing advice on performance issues and factors affecting the sector, Family Business Australia equally puts the results to valuable use in its advocacy and lobbying roles. Plus, FBERG’s students and industry partners benefit from the survey, as ABS faculty use its findings to inform student education sessions and as a valuable discussion point at key industry events.

Of course, the survey’s impact reaches far beyond our national borders, too. KPMG uses the Family Business Survey to regularly inform discussions among the international family business community.

For a full copy of survey results, see Family Business Survey 2015.

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