Family business are more successful when they engage an external mentor to work with the next generation.

Geelong business mentor Bill Winter puts focus on future planning

SPEND just a little time with Bill Winter and you quickly get a glimpse into the emotions and complexities of advising family businesses about their future.

From the entrenched views of Baby Boomer business founders and the sense of identity, purpose and control that is wrapped into their role, to the lack of preparedness of the next generation who have different views and capacity to take the business forward, there is a web of business and personal issues to unravel.

The lines between business and family can also become blurred and often the Newtown business mentor’s first priority is to understand the emotions at play.

“You have to be aware that the next generation thinks differently, has been educated differently and has different ambitions … and they have spouses who have different ideas,” Mr Winter said.

“I focus on trying to find what is best for the business, because if the business survives, they will benefit.”

One of the common threads Mr Winter has seen in his 18 years of business mentoring is families not talking about the future.

“People just haven’t had the conversation; they are either too scared to have it or they don’t know how to go about it,” Mr Winter said.

He said sometimes family business leaders held fears for their own future if they let go of the business reins

Family businesses can also outgrow the capacity of a family member to keep managing it, and other times the next generation needs to be mentored in how to lead the business and to be encouraged to build or to find “outside” experience.

“It’s about mentoring the next generation coming through so they don’t get things handed to them on a golden plate and stuff it up,” Mr Winter said.

A confidante more than a coach, Mr Winter advocates for family businesses to add advisory panels to bring in knowledge, particularly given the complexities around governance and compliance.

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