The booming world of family business advisers was on show last week at the excellent Family Firm Institute’s annual conference in London. More than 300 delegates attended the three day conference that culminated in a gala dinner in a swanky London hotel.
Of course, the FFI’s work is only one side of the growing industry around the world of family enterprises. Banks, accountancy firms, management consultancies and business schools have all added greatly to their number of family business experts in the last few years.
From good old fashion succession planning to psychological profiling and creating intranets for families, whatever a business owners’ need, or what an adviser think they need, these days they can get it. At one level, it’s a reflection of the growing popularity of family enterprises as a strong and viable business model for the 21st century. Post the financial crisis of 2008, family businesses are fashionable because they are about the long-term and stakeholder capitalism - both very much in vogue right now, hence the halo over family firms.
But it’s far from just a flavour of the month-type appeal. There’s real demand from a growing number of family businesses for outside help. Recently it was disclosed that around 5,000 of Germany’s Mittelstand businesses face the issue of succession every year. Many of them will deal with the issue internally, but many others will seek expert advice from outside. Germany may be at the upper end of the succession world, given that so many of the country’s businesses were set up after World World Two, but the issue is just as pressing in many other family businesses around the world.
Help with succession may be the most obvious area where outsiders get involved, but financial advice is also growing area for advisers. Family businesses, particularly big ones, effectively represent the top of the food chain when it comes to financiers. Not only can they provide corporate finance advice, but they can also be at hand to give wealth management advice to the family owners. They can also help with setting up family offices, and structure acquisitions and listings for the business - all growing areas for family businesses.
In fact, there’s never been a better time to be a family business adviser. Let’s hope for their sake it continues to be so...