Succession fears for family businesses

Fears that some family-run firms in the Sheffield region may not have proper plans in place to tackle the difficult issue of handing over to the next generation have come from a family business specialist.

Richard Frost, managing partner of Sheffield-based independent chartered accountants Hawsons, of Glossop Road, said that family firms account for three quarters of the region’s businesses and employ half the workforce and it is crucial to the well-being of the local economy, and the businesses themselves, that they prepare well thought out structures to ensure that management succession goes smoothly and without rancour.

He added:

“Many family firms have ageing owners and managers and the process of transition to the next generation is a key issue.

“There is probably a tendency to assume that succession takes place almost by accident but it needs thinking through very carefully if problems and sleepless nights are to be avoided.

“Surveys have shown that some firms found it more difficult than a third party sale.”

Richard, who was one of the first in the country to be awarded a postgraduate certificate in family business advice through the International Centre for Families in Business, said:

“Research has also revealed that only one in eight family businesses make it through to the end of the third generation in the ownership of the founding family, which provides an even greater incentive to firms to devote a lot of time and effort to what can be a very difficult and complex procedure if not planned properly.”

Richard Frost

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