Posts in Business

How family businesses are responding to Covid-19 and an offer of support

May 6th, 2020 Posted by Business 0 thoughts on “How family businesses are responding to Covid-19 and an offer of support”

Over the last six weeks all businesses have been tested and many family businesses have shown themselves to be resilient and agile. Family businesses around the world have responded to the coronavirus threat by safeguarding staff, adapting production lines and pledging millions to medical relief.

In the UK, Bamford family-owned JCB was asked by the Prime Minister to help with the production of ventilators. In collaboration with Dyson it produced a prototype ventilator machine in record time and also pivoted some of its production lines to make protective visors for healthcare workers.

And family-owned LMVH and L’Oreal both pledged millions to relief efforts and used their cosmetics factories to manufacture hand sanitiser to donate to European health authorities.

But while many businesses have adapted, most have still taken a hit and there are lots of support measures to take advantage of, which my business partner Tony and I have been helping businesses access. Many have successfully applied for a CBILS loan but those that haven’t are now eligible to apply for the new Bounce Back Loan Scheme, launched on Monday 4th May.

Tony and I have produced a guidance document containing a summary of all the financial support available to businesses with our comments and advice on how to access the schemes. You can download the document here.

And please, don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need some help during this unprecedented time. You can contact us using the details below.

Michael D Oliver
CEO, Fiducia Partners
07833 297 981

Tony Groom
CFO, Fiducia Partners
07973 630646

Fiducia Partners Insights - When Leaders Won't Let Go Of Running The Family Business

When Leaders Won’t Let Go Of Running The Family Business

November 21st, 2019 Posted by Business, Planning 0 thoughts on “When Leaders Won’t Let Go Of Running The Family Business”

There are many stories in the family business world of leaders struggling to let the next generation take the reins. Or of leaders who pass on the leadership, but then undermine decisions and hang around not fully letting go. It is a complex situation as leaders that have founded the company or lead it to immense success may struggle to visualise anyone else running the business, even if it is a well-prepared heir. 

For example Rupert Murdoch, now age 88, still chairs News Corp and it seems he’s had several power struggles with his eldest son, Lachlan. Lachlan joined his father’s empire in his 20’s but quit working for News Corp in 2005, reportedly due to feeling that his father undermined him in management disputes. Then last year Lachlan was named chairman and CEO of Fox News but it’s been reported that his father is still struggling to let him take the lead, getting involved in Lachlan’s management decisions and ultimately undermining Lachlan’s leadership.

It is not uncommon for leaders like Rupert Murdoch – who have founded or led the company to success – to find it difficult to yield their power to the next generation. Leaders that find it hard to let go do so at the expense of the company. In delaying succession, the next leader might arrive unprepared, or is undermined if the ex-leader hangs around in the capacity of chair or senior advisor. All this can lead to waning company performance and criticism of the new CEO who may either step down or be fired. Relinquishing power can be made easier by having a strong succession plan and nurturing heirs to the point where they should feel comfortable letting go.

But succession and yielding power to the next generation can be done well in more than one way. In the LVMH group chief executive and chairman Bernard Arnault’s children each head different brands in the company, allowing them to demonstrate their leadership skills without being in the direct shadow of their father. This should build trust so that when Bernard is ready to step down he does so with the knowledge that he has successors ready to take the lead. 

In the UK, family-owned bakery chain Warburtons took a clean-cut approach when transferring from the fourth to the fifth generation. When the fourth generation of leaders passed on the leadership of the company, they did so all on the same day. The fourth generation of brothers who managed the company together decided to put in place a robust succession plan and then all left on the same day, handing full leadership over to their children, without trying to hold on or hang around. The company’s experienced team of managers then supported the new generation while they got used to the role. While this is an unusual approach, it does show the huge amount of trust they had in their heirs which in turn should give the new leaders the confidence to make decisive decisions.

While each taking different approaches to succession, what I suspect both LVMH and Warburton’s have in common is proper communication. Successful succession happens when the leading and next generation have an open dialogue and talk about plans and expectations.

Fiducia Partners Insights - Firing A Family Member From The Family Business

Firing A Family Member From The Family Business

November 7th, 2019 Posted by Business, Planning 0 thoughts on “Firing A Family Member From The Family Business”

Firing a long-term employee is difficult. Now imagine firing a family member. Unfortunately, this is sometimes necessary and while it will always be difficult, handling the situation in the right way will limit the damage, both to the business and the relationship. 


To prevent this situation from arising in the first place would of course be ideal and when thinking about prevention I think family businesses should start with a clear policy detailing how employees, family or otherwise, can gain employment in the business, be promoted, how they must conduct themselves and what kind of behaviour would lead to review and termination. You might include a rule that no family member can work in the business unless they have had at least 5 years of work experience outside the business, or that they must hold a degree in a relevant subject. And even if they meet the criteria, asking family members to apply to the role like any other candidate allows executives to assess their readiness and aptitude for the role before hiring. As with any employee, you should have an employment contract and role description that their performance can be measured against. All this helps to put the emphasis on merit rather than family status. It must be clear that no family member is owed any position in the company and even once they have a position, they must work to keep it. If such values and procedures are established early on, if termination becomes necessary, they can be referred to and the termination process will be less personal and more procedural.  

In general, unless there has been an incident of gross misconduct, the behaviours that lead to a termination usually take place over a long period of time. Regular performance reviews will also help keep employees on track and prevent a termination from being a surprise to any party. They also provide a useful back-up if the termination is disputed. 360-degree reviews can also work well in a family business by helping to ensure objectivity that can be difficult when family members work together.


Even with a solid prevention strategy there might still come a time when a family member needs to be fired and while this won’t ever be easy, for the business or the family, it can be eased.

You might first consider damage limitation and your immediate thought will likely be about how you to keep the relationship intact but as the business leader it’s also important to consider the wider perception and impact of the termination to the company. Any major firing can disrupt a business and create fear among employees but firing a family member will do so ten-fold. That said, keeping a family member on when they’re not performing is also damaging by either making non-family employees feel that there is an unfair difference in expected performance or by lowering performance across the staff who follow by example. 

It’s also crucial to make it clear that the business and family are separate and that the reasons for which the person might be terminated do not affect their worthiness as a member of the family. In the business, the needs of the business must come first and firing the person from the business does not mean firing them from the family. Equally, avoid talking about the situation with other family members who are uninvolved in the management of the business. This will only cause people to take sides and increase tension around the subject.

The board of directors can be a useful tool to provide advice and support, particularly if there are non-family members on the board as it helps to ensure impartiality. However, the board should not be used as an excuse or proxy to carry out the termination. The final decision rests with the CEO and they should be the one to deliver the news, whether they’re a family member or not. 

However, before serving a termination notice it’s a good idea to offer the person an honourable way out by suggesting resignation. If it has reached the point where termination is necessary one would hope that all parties know the reasons and it is not a surprise. The conversation about resignation would include an honest conversation about performance and also reassurance that it doesn’t affect their status in the family. Having an impartial third person in the room, be that a board member or outside consultant, can also help to temper emotions and keep the conversation on track.

If the resignation offer is not accepted and a termination notice must be delivered, be as specific as possible and utilise evidence such as performance reviews. With clear, empirical reasons the person may recognise the reason to leave and do so without the family relationship being damaged.

In summary, the process of firing a family member will never be damage-free or emotion-free for any of the people involved or the business but being open and honest will go a long way to limiting the damage. 

Fiducia Partners insights - Bringing A Non-Family CEO Into The Family Business

Bringing A Non-Family CEO Into The Family Business

October 18th, 2019 Posted by Business 0 thoughts on “Bringing A Non-Family CEO Into The Family Business”

There are times in the life of a multigenerational family business when it might be suitable to appoint a non-family member to lead it. There could be many reasons for this with the most common being that when a succession is due to take place there are no family members qualified or willing to take up the role. In this case some families may hire non-family CEOs to serve as a “bridge” while the rising generation acquires the necessary experience or knowledge, whereas other families may choose to fully transition into the role of owner-investors, ceding ongoing management to non-family professionals.

Needing to source a CEO from outside the family shouldn’t be seen as a failure, rather an opportunity. It’s a chance for fresh eyes to consider new areas of business or growth opportunities that family members, having learnt from other family members, may not see. They can bring expertise not available in the family and depending on what the family wants for the business they can choose a CEO with the right skills and experience from a far wider pool than if only looking within the family. 

One significant advantage of bringing in a non-family CEO is that it also opens up an opportunity for better communication. The CEO can act as an effective liaison between generations to ensure mutual understanding. Where there are several branches of the family with an interest in the business it may also widen options for the next successor. Even inside the same family there can be factions, with each faction interested in their branch succeeding in the family business. A non-family CEO is able to impartially appraise who in the family might be suited to certain roles without bias, unconscious or otherwise.  

However, the benefits of appointing a non-family CEO can only be achieved if family members respect the authority of the CEO, and don’t undermine him or her. This is easier said than done, as I have witnessed several times. Bringing in a non-family CEO is a big transition for most family businesses and is therefore challenging. 

As well as being willing to accept the change the family should also look to mend fractured relationships and resolve tensions before appointing the new CEO. While a non-family CEO can perform a certain amount of mediation it is not their main job and spending all their time managing difficult family relationships will make it much too difficult to perform their role as CEO effectively. 

Once the family is prepared for the introduction of the non-family CEO, the CEO must also play their part to make a success of the situation. I’ve worked with many wealthy families and their businesses over my working life and where I’ve seen successful non-family CEOs they all seem to establish these key principles early on:

First, that they are separate from family affairs and family politics. Maintaining impartiality and not getting involved in family matters ensures that both family members and other staff trust the non-family CEO and respect their authority.  

Second, that they establish clear rules that focus on equality. In many family businesses there aren’t the formal structures and rules that may exist in a non-family business. While this can work for smaller businesses, where a non-family CEO is appointed it is important to implement policies that clarify the rules for everyone to follow, whatever their status or seniority. This is key to maintaining impartiality and independence throughout the CEOs tenure. 

Such an approach is likely to move the business towards a structure much more formal than the family might be used to. However, I argue that this should be a welcome change for most family businesses. It not only opens up opportunities for growth but also makes working in the business more attractive to other, non-family talent who might not usually consider a family business where their growth opportunities are traditionally limited. 

Fiducia Partners Insights - What Happens After Selling The Family Business

What Comes After Selling The Family Business?

August 30th, 2019 Posted by Business, Family Wealth, Planning 0 thoughts on “What Comes After Selling The Family Business?”

Succession planning can be one of the most challenging aspects of owning and operating a family business and sometimes the right succession plan is to sell. This might be the case for multiple reasons including destructive family dynamics, conflicts in vision, lack of interest by the next generation, lack of passion by the current generation but also reasons that any business might face such as concern about increased regulation or exposure to potential liabilities. 

Whatever the reason, after the decision is made to sell and the deal is done, both the family and individuals within it can struggle with the loss. Having worked with many family businesses over my life it is very clear that business and personal aspects are deeply interwoven in family-owned businesses. The business is often the result of generations of a family’s hard work and devotion and may have created expectations about continuity, tradition, unity, dividends and family employment.

On the positive side if the business is sold for a substantial sum it can provide financial freedom for the family or individuals within it to accomplish other goals. Some families may choose to create a family office and channel their shared goals and vision into its management and investment decisions. Other families might choose to start a new family venture, without the problems that led to the sale of the previous business. Others may choose to manage their money individually. 

Whether or not family members choose to create a family office or manage their money individually, a large amount of liquidity presents its own issues including how to preserve it. This would usually involve making decisions about setting up trusts, diversifying assets across industries and markets and how philanthropic they want to be. 

But even with a plan for what to do after the sale of the business, it is very likely that members of the family may struggle with feeling like they’ve lost a part of their identity. Particularly if the business was founded several generations ago, it can be hard not to feel a sense of failure and guilt of letting down the family or failing to fulfill the legacy passed to them. Without the company, the family’s perception of itself and its purpose can change. A company often holds families together by giving members a shared identity and closeness established by previous generations. It’s an unfortunate reality that selling the business that glues the family together may mean some members of the family slip away but it also provides an opportunity to create opportunities to connect with one another around social events rather than in the boardroom. 

Of course for some families, the sale of the family business is a welcome opportunity for individuals to choose their own paths. Whatever comes after the sale of the business, one thing that is certain is that having a solid plan for how to work, live and invest following the sale of the business is key. The family’s success may no longer be tied to having its name on the wall but its success may continue in other ways with family members following their passions or working together to preserve a financial legacy for the next generation.  

If you’re considering your options for business succession and would benefit from outside help please do get in touch with me via Among our services as a multi family office Fiducia Partners provides discreet introductions and expert support for strategic challenges.

If you enjoyed this article, please let me know by clicking on the thumbs up icon above. I really appreciate receiving the feedback.

For more of my insights into the world of investments and family wealth visit the Fiducia Partners website

Fiducia Partners Insights - Sibling Rivalry in the Family Business

Sibling Rivalry In The Family Business

June 14th, 2019 Posted by Business, Family Wealth, Planning 0 thoughts on “Sibling Rivalry In The Family Business”

Over my many years of working with wealthy families and their businesses, sibling rivalry is a problem I have seen all too often and has the potential to devastate both the family and the business if not properly managed. Family business leaders are usually most concerned about sibling rivalry when they start to consider succession planning and what will happen when they are not there to mediate disputes. But where siblings are actively involved in the family business before succession if sibling rivalry can be managed and squashed early on then the matter of dealing with it after the death of the business leader becomes far easier. 

When rivalling siblings are actively involved in the family business it is often either emotional or strategic and to find solutions to the rivalry it is first important to determine the underlying causes.

Emotional Rivalry

A common example of emotional rivalry that I have seen is where siblings compete for their parents’ approval or recognition. While this is common in personal family lives and particularly when children are young, it can extend into adulthood and competition in the family business. And as the siblings are in competition with one another, they are not working together to further the interests of the business as a whole. They may actively avoid working together so they can prove the success is theirs alone. In cases such as this, the solution is to work on the parent/child relationship rather than the sibling relationship. This might mean formalising recognition and reward to remove any potential for favouritism, or the perception of it. 

It might also mean putting in place the requirement that family members must take employment outside the family business before joining. While I often recommend this as a good way of gaining exposure to alternative business techniques, in the case of sibling rivalry it also allows siblings to achieve success that is recognised outside of the family. Where siblings have achieved success separate from the family, respect for one another and for oneself supersedes the desire for parental approval. 

Strategic Rivalry

Strategic rivalry in family businesses often occurs when siblings have conflicting values and business styles and perhaps different attitudes towards risk. While such differences may not matter in their personal lives, when working together in the family business and with their livelihoods depending on one another these differences can present problems. 

I suggest that the solution to dealing with strategic rivalry is found in solid business and strategic planning. Drawing up a solid business plan and then sticking to it should help to avoid disagreements over strategic direction. It’s also crucial to avoid relying on handshake agreements. Formalised contracts, job descriptions and operating procedures can’t be misinterpreted and therefore set out expectations from the beginning. 

One high profile case of sibling rivalry over the family business that I recall is when Reliance Industriesfounder Dhirubhai Ambani died in 2002 without leaving a will, let alone a succession plan for the business. His eldest son, Mukesh, took up the role of Chairman while his youngest son, Anil, was made vice-chairman. Mukesh reportedly tried to push Anil off the board which led to a nasty legal battle resulting in a de-merger of the company in 2005, led by their mother. Even when heading their own businesses their feud continued until 2010 when their mother intervened again to issue a non-compete agreement. Today, Mukesh is personally worth around $43bn whereas Anil is worth around $1.5bn. While it is unclear why the two brothers’ feud first started it is likely that their rivalry was both emotional and strategic and without solid agreements about how they would work together once their father past away their rivalry was free to spiral out of control. While no one can know for sure, it wouldn’t be unrealistic to speculate that the two arms of the split up business would have faired much better if it hadn’t broken up and the two brothers had been able to work together.

If you enjoyed this article please let me know by leaving a comment. I really appreciate it.

Fiducia Partners Insights - Ensuring Good Relationships Between Active and Non-Active Family Shareholders

Preventing Standoffs Between Active and Non-Active Family Shareholders

November 22nd, 2018 Posted by Business, Family Wealth 0 thoughts on “Preventing Standoffs Between Active and Non-Active Family Shareholders”

A few months ago I wrote about preventing feuds from becoming fatal for the family business. In that piece I focused on family members who are actively involved in the business and how they separate their roles at work and their roles in the family. Now I want to look at the relationship between active and non-active members of the family business. The dynamics here need to be carefully managed particularly when a family business has survived several generations as there are likely to be many family members who have shares in the business and while some may be actively involved in it as employees or directors some won’t be and this has the potential to cause tension. And whether involved or not, in a family business every family member feels some degree of responsibility because the business is often interwoven with the family’s history, future and financial wellbeing.

To ensure harmony between all family shareholders for the benefit of the business, here are a few suggestions:


  1. Be practical with voting stock

Where the voting power lies can have a big impact on the smooth running of the business. Problems can arise when all shares have equal voting power and active and non-active shareholders vote different ways on key decisions because of differing priorities, risk tolerance or levels of knowledge. One solution is to have multiple classes of stock which enable certain members of the family to maintain control over the company. For example active members of the family business could be allowed to hold a class of stock with one or more votes per share and a different class of stock with reduced or no voting power can then be held by family members who are not actively involved in the running of the business. This ensures decision making about the business will remain with those most familiar with it, but the economic benefit of the business is still shared evenly throughout the family.

While this can be a practical option, in the name of fairness and equality many families prefer to have one class of share. In this case a solution I know that many families use is for non-active family members who do not feel informed enough about the business to make key voting decisions to appoint an active family member as their proxy. However this can only happen with consent and trust and so only tends to work in well functioning families.


  1. Draw up an enforceable shareholders agreement

Whether you have different classes of shares or not, there may still be other issues about control of the company that you need to address. This can be done with an enforceable shareholders agreement. Depending on the issues you want to avoid or resolve, you can include certain stipulations such as restrictions on the appointment and removal of directors and of their remuneration. Another area that may need clarity relates to dividends which for some non-active shareholders may be their sole source of funds.


  1. Promote inclusion

Because a family business is often intertwined with the family’s identity it is vitally important for active family members not to dismiss input from non-active family members. While there is the potential for issue where non-active members begin to unduly interfere, in general any contributions and sacrifices made should be acknowledged and appreciated, and ideally remunerated. It is important to remember that even if a family member has chosen not to be actively involved in the business they are still likely to interested in it and would appreciate being included in some way. Therefore, active family members need to take responsibility for communicating updates about the business with non-active family members just as non-active family members should show an interest in the business, offering opinions and advice, but without unduly interfering.

For many families, holding an annual or bi-annual family shareholders meeting serves several purposes:

  • it gives everyone an update on how the business is doing and makes them feel included;
  • it allows advice or concerns to be heard in a constructive way; and
  • it reaffirms positive family relationships which can only be good for the business.


Particularly in the case of large families, it can be difficult to include everyone in the business in a meaningful way but offering opportunities to be heard and promising to listen is something that active members have a responsibility to do and non-active family members have a responsibility not to take advantage of.


If you enjoyed this article, please leave a comment and let me know!

Fiducia Partners Insights - Building Trust in Business Relationships

Five Ways to Build Trust in Business Relationships

November 1st, 2018 Posted by Business 0 thoughts on “Five Ways to Build Trust in Business Relationships”

Developing strong relationships is crucial for success in business and is something that involves several factors of which I would argue that the most important is trust. It is a component of integrity and confidence and forms the basis of both personal and business relationships since it relies on others knowing that you are who you say you are and that you do what you say you will do as the essential criteria for trust.

It is well known that building trust takes time and effort while losing it takes a single instance of breach. Trust is a two-way relationship that enriches your life and in my experience opens up new opportunities. Here I go through a few behaviours I find helpful in building trust with my business colleagues and contacts:


Communicate openly and effectively

Honest and effective communication is crucial for all trusting and successful relationships. This includes both conveying your messages clearly and listening to others. Where there is a lack of communication, misunderstanding seeps in and relationships can fall apart. In a business context effective communication is particularly pertinent to agreements where all parties should be clear about what exactly has been agreed to. Good communication is also important when difficulties arise in a relationship, as they often do, and a frank conversation must be had rather than avoided.


Be honest about your vulnerabilities

Showing rather than covering up vulnerabilities is a great way of creating and accelerating trust as it allows your relationship to grow deeper more quickly. Exposing your flaws and weaknesses is a demonstration of your trust in those you share with and you will quickly find out if it is taken advantage of. A well known case of this is when Starbucks founder Howard Schultz returned as CEO to revive the struggling company in 2008. He stood up at an all-company meeting to confess that the Starbucks leadership had failed its employees and families which as a moment of vulnerability turned out to be the beginning of the company’s turnaround and subsequent success.


Be consistent

I find it a great demonstrator of trust when someone is consistent in their actions. Meeting commitments, whether that’s arriving on-time to meetings, fulfilling promises or completing work to agreed deadlines allows other people to believe you when you say you will do something.


Meet face-to-face

In today’s digital world it is very easy to communicate and conduct business online and over the phone but I think face-to-face meetings shouldn’t be underestimated. Meeting business contacts in person allows for candid conversation and shows people that you value your relationship with them enough to make time to sit down and give them your full attention.


Be generous with your time and help

Having built a strong relationship you shouldn’t take it for granted. This means nurturing your relationships and not just calling on contacts when you need their help. I find that offering to help others in a way that provides no direct benefit to myself builds their trust in me – from which I derive benefit.


In my business of connecting people and facilitating deals trust is at the heart of all that I do so I hope you found this article useful and that you can apply it to your own business relationships. Please let me know if you enjoyed reading it by leaving a comment. I very much appreciate it.

Fiducia Partners Insights - Why Integrity is Crucial in Business

Why Integrity is Crucial in Business

October 11th, 2018 Posted by Business 0 thoughts on “Why Integrity is Crucial in Business”

For everyone in business, personal integrity is crucial for having a good reputation, self-respect and achieving long-term success. There are of course many examples of successes won by cheating and lies, but these will always be temporary. Consider the case of Theranos, a blood-testing start-up once valued at $9 billion and subsequently found to have misled investors out of $700 million. Both its founder and former president are now facing criminal charges of wire fraud after they schemed to defraud investors, doctors and patients. Its founder, Elizabeth Holmes, is also banned from serving as an officer or director of a public company for ten years but even after that, I doubt she’ll ever raise any money from investors again.

Therefore to achieve long-term success, integrity is a crucial element. For entrepreneurs it is important for gaining and keeping investor and team member support, for companies it is important for gaining and keeping employees, customers and suppliers, for investors it is important to consider an ethical investment strategy since a portfolio reflects the investor’s values despite the prospect of attractive returns.

The standard definition of integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. It is a state of mind rather than situational, meaning you are consistent in your actions at all times, not just when others are looking. We all face integrity-based choices on a daily basis and in reality we all define integrity differently. For example I’m sure Elizabeth Holmes justified her actions because she thought that her blood-testing device, if it worked, would revolutionise the diagnostic industry and ultimately save lives. Therefore, while we all think we know what having integrity involves, I have listed below what I think are some of the crucial aspects of integrity in business:


  1. Meeting your commitments

    Whether turning up to a meeting on time, completing work on schedule or in my case, making the promised introduction, fulfilling promises and meeting commitments is important for your reputation and how likely people are to do business with you again.


  1. Being honest

    This means admitting mistakes and telling the whole truth however painful this might be in the short-term. It involves not overselling an outcome and not telling people what they want to hear since these create a short-term perception in you that can be your undoing if expectations are not met. I believe that underselling is more honest since the outcome is more likely to be exceeded and therefore your reputation enhanced instead of the other way around. Essentially being honest with yourself and others will help protect you from being held to account and as a result you can’t go too far wrong in business or in life.


  1. Working by a strong and consistent moral code

    By setting yourself certain standards of behaviour to stick to you should avoid unscrupulous or immoral others and build a positive reputation.


  1. Being authentic

    Essentially, be yourself.


  1. Treating others with respect

    We all know business is as much, if not more about relationships than anything else. Being courteous and considerate to all those you meet and work with need not compromise being tough and frank. Respect also involves not doing things which disrespect yourself or others such as bullying, deceit, infidelity or fraud. Such honest dealings do not go unnoticed or unremembered.


  1. Building trust

    Doing all of the above will help inspire the trust of others, both in you and your business. We all know however that trust is much harder to build than to break. One instance of dishonesty, of not meeting a commitment, of wavering morals can lead to a break down in trust. As William Godwin once said:

    “No man knows the value of innocence and integrity but he who has lost them”.


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