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The Family Constitution

A ‘Family Constitution’ might sound terribly formal, but it is an important part of the life of every enterprising family. An increasing number of families - those who like to plan for their future rather than leave matters to chance – are supplementing their unwritten constitution (“the way we do things as a family”) with a bit more formality and organisation. A written Family Constitution helps them to move forward and achieve what they want, both as a family and as individuals. The process of creating the Constitution, as well as the final result, helps the family to reach important decisions, sometimes on sensitive issues, which, if left unresolved, can too easily result in conflict. The paper below gives some pointers on creating a Family Constitution.

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Women in Family Enterprises: A Round Table Discussion

Reccently FBS invited five women from enterprising families to meet us and discuss issues relating to the roles of Women in Family Enterprises; a topic that is relevant to all, given that we don\'t know of any enterprising family made up entirely of men! The resulting paper is required reading for all working with family enterprises.

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Passing the Baton

This paper examines comments from both seniors and the next generation family members from a number of family businesses and makes recommendations to help smooth transitions.

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Ownership of a family business

This FBS Insight covers some of the key issues that a family needs to consider in relation to ownership of their business. 1. Are we custodians or value-out owners? 2. Should ownership be restricted to bloodline owners or include spouses? 3. Working owners and non-working owners. 4. Consolidating ownership in branches. 5. The use of trusts. 6. Dividend policy. 7. Decisions making by owners.

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Direction and Management and Bottom-Line Performance

In the pursuit of prosperity, and for some, survival, it is hard to exaggerate the impact of Direction and Management on bottom line performance. With commercial demands increasing at staggering pace, and the ‘economy’ and the ‘market’ often getting the best sound bites when explaining results, it is vital to empower management as a force for positive bottom-line impact which: • Denies the ‘economy’ and ‘market’ undue control • Isolates the true and proportionate causes of shortfall • Distinguishes reasons from theories • Rescues the controllable from the inevitable For family businesses juggling both family and business priorities management standards and performance is both a sensitive yet crucial issue, and addressing it requires some ground rules in empathy and objectivity. First, this is often more a matter of role, not competence, until proven otherwise; and so we need to reveal and remove the obstacles to securing management in its proper role and contribution. Secondly, targets and other key objectives are often the constant victims of failing to realise full management potential; and so this standard is really non-negotiable. Unique challenges to securing this benchmark can arise from: the different routes individuals have taken to management including, but not exclusively, entrepreneurial and family businesses; confusing management terminology; assumptions of existing control; management roles diminished by questionable priorities; and even the common misconception that bottom-line performance is the accountant’s job. Managers also often work under adopted roles without opportunity to understand and embrace accountability for commercial and other key performance. Taking care to merge family support with business support family businesses can greatly benefit from simple strategies, initiatives, and tools to secure performance management. Billy Andrew 0141 222 2820

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Our Client Feedback

  • Our planning for the future had become stuck in lots of technical detail and it felt that we were not making enough progress. The way FBS went about their work guided the family firmly but sensitively through the process of making key decisions; the big picture ones that then make it easier to deal with the detail. Their process for doing this kind of work is markedly different from the way other advisers operate and we can vouch for the advantages of getting both generations involved in the process.

    Morris Hamburger Searchlight Electric Ltd
  • FBS worked with both generations of our family and the board of directors to help us develop a Family Constitution. This now helps guide us in many areas of importance to the family and the business. There’s a lot of work involved in creating a constitution and it was essential for us to have the right information and advice to ensure that ours would last for a long time.

    The work FBS did with the next generation of our family was hugely helpful.

    Jim Walker – Walkers Shortbread Ltd
  • I would like to offer my appreciation for the work you have undertaken with Aspire Scotland Ltd. It is my belief that alongside yourself our organisation has grown in its understanding and appreciation of what makes a family business tick. We (the family) found the report that you presented to us enormously helpful in continuing our in-house dialogue about how the future of the organisation might be framed and responsibilities across family members revisited.

     I trust likewise you now have a firmer grasp of our industry and are in a position to continue this work across important milestones, such as new markets, succession planning and salary review etc to name but a few.

    As you are well aware we strive to have a larger piece of the market next year and our flexibility will play an enormous part in this. Having Family Business Solutions along with us on this next part of the journey we feel is crucial. Your candid, open and thorough approach to work has made for ease of engagement across family members and I sincerely hope we can continue our relationship moving forward.


    Eddie McCaffrey - Aspire Scotland Ltd
  • Family Businesses are complex and emotional organisations. It is amazing how many professional advisors try and separate the business from the family and fail to comprehend the many layers of power and control involved. It is refreshing and comforting to know that there is a truly world class expert available in the FBS team who can understand and deal with the complexities of family businesses and also calmly and logically work out solutions . Their knowledge of family business is outstanding and enlightening and their approach is very professional, amiable and ultimately achieves outcomes. They are able to keep the process on track and that is important. I have a great deal to thank the FBS team for and will be back to see them when it is time for the succession planning in the future.

    Jane Wylie-Roberts
  • I finally realised that unless we could first address family issues we would never solve our business problems. Through contacting the Scottish Family Business Association, I was put in touch with Family Business Solutions. I cant speak highly enough about the contribution from FBS.

    Over the last 3 years, they have clarified our shared purpose as a family and a business. Profitability has increased substantially. Thanks to FBS we have in place Governance and Management structures that are fit for purpose and a next generation that are better informed, understand the vision and shared purpose for Hendersons and are clear about what part they will play as future owners of the business.

    Oliver Henderson
  • Family Business Solutions was asked to advise on constituting the family interests in a much-loved landed business. The prospect of greater financial success, and the passing of interest through the generations, required a more formal structure. It was a long, detailed and sometimes tense process -but FBS guided us through it with great skill, patience and discretion. Without that guidance, it would not have happened. And now the family governance is on a completely different level.

    Artordinsh Estate company Ltd and Raven family
  • I want to thank George Stevenson of Family Business Solutions for his help on all fronts. He made a complex family issue very straightforward, providing solutions to our problems, bringing them to a very acceptable outcome whilst taking account of the emotions at play and the interests of everyone involved. I know that in the weeks and months ahead that all parties will be secure in the knowledge that there will be fair treatment and the company will never be under threat. Thank you once again for bringing that to this company and our family.

    Chris Stockwell, Director, Stockwell Ltd
  • I have known FBS since their inception and have watched them develop and hone their expertise for over a decade. Aside from their outstanding consulting services, they have an amazing depth of knowledge and experience that they share generously with the family business world through training and publishing.

    FBS is a world-class resource.

    Martin Stepek, Chief Executive, Scottish Family Business Association
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