<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Surrey Life today click here

Family businesses facing tech challenges need to ‘reboot’ and show their resilience

PUBLISHED: 10:15 20 April 2017 | UPDATED: 10:15 20 April 2017

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto


There are more family businesses in the South East of England than any other area of the UK. They form an important part of the UK economy and - just like other businesses, across all sectors, they are affected by fast-changing technology.

With family businesses, however, there can be even greater challenges on how best to embrace the digital age. Finding family members who have the skills to lead the business in this accelerating global economy can be difficult. Embracing innovation and encouraging a smooth transition to the next generation needs to be a priority.

As an advisor to family businesses I was keen to explore how family firms have approached such challenges. Charles Russell Speechlys has recently commissioned some in-depth research into this topic involving leading academics, national and international family businesses and their advisors. The resulting research report, entitled “The Connected Generation: Rebooting family business succession for the digital age” makes interesting reading. The most surprising finding, in my view, is that in many ways our research debunks the general stereotype that technology is the remit of the ‘next generation.’ Family business owners are keen to respond to the challenges of the digital economy and are largely aware that innovation gives family firms great opportunities to ensure that the next generation engages with the business.

Embracing Technological Change

It is fair to say that younger family members are connected to their peers and an increasingly globalised world through social media and a network of technologies. They rely on Facebook, Instagram and other social media channels and communicate in a very different way to older generations. Younger family members understand how consumption patterns are changing and they can spot where the family business is lacking the expertise it needs to develop in a particular area.

Adapting to Change

It is not the pace of technological change which seems the biggest area of concern to the future of family businesses. Attitudes are shifting: members of this connected generation may not want to just follow the well-trodden path into the family business - there are more opportunities out there for them and they may not receive a huge amount of credit from their peers for just following in Mum and Dad’s footsteps. The most important thing is for members of the different generations to have strong and open communications about their future plans and the opportunities ahead. Family businesses have survived, and prospered, in times of major change, and will continue to do so.

Driving the Business Forward

The overriding message from our research is that honest and open conversations between all generations are critical to sustaining a future for the family firm. In order to keep innovating and make a success of transition to future generations, family businesses must:

1. Make transition more collaborative so that the next generation feel they can make a difference and test their ideas.

2. Create a framework to introduce potential next generation leaders to the business and manage the complex legal and emotional issues involved in transition.

Bringing the Next Generation into Your Business

We have also produced a comprehensive guide - “Connecting generations: a guide for entrepreneurs and family businesses” - which examines the legal and governance issues faced by family businesses at different stages of their development and offers some practical guidance, particularly around the area of succession.

Five practical tips to bring the next generation into your family business

1. Teach them by example when they are young - its never too early to start - pay them to work in the business at weekends or in the holidays.

2. Send them on a ‘next gen’ course to teach them relevant leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

3. Listen to their passions and identify ways they can express them in the context of the business; see how the business can adapt to encourage their participation.

4. Ask them to help you solve a technology related problem or run a social media campaign; give them ownership of it and the resources to do it.

5. If they say they don’t want to join the business now, try to avoid ultimatums; encourage them on their path and keep an open mind about where they might fit in the business later.

Charles Russell Speechlys is working with Family Business Place, a specialist advisory service to family businesses, to develop Growth Clubs for family businesses to enable local business leaders to meet and share and tackle their biggest challenges. The Guildford Growth Club launches in May, if you would like more information on this please contact charlotte.ford@crsblaw.com. 

Charles Russell Speechlys provides specialist insight and advice across the full spectrum of business and personal needs and can offer holistic legal support to businesses throughout their life-cycle. For more information please contact Sally Ashford on 01483 252525 or by email via sally.ashford@crsblaw.com.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Surrey visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Surrey staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Surrey account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Mon, 14:02

Many kids list being a racing driver as the job they want to do when they grow up but for Tom Chilton, the dream become a reality. Andy Newbold met up with the British and World Touring Car Championship driver at his home in Redhill

Read more
Thursday, March 8, 2018

The nominations for the Surrey Young Superstar Awards have opened for 2018 and we want to hear from you

Read more
Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Since 2013, Stripey Stork has transformed the lives of local families through the simple act of recycling. The Redhill-based charity has responded to nearly 4,000 requests for help and distributed more than £1.5m worth of items. Founder, Nicola Dawes, tells us more

Read more
Friday, March 2, 2018

Mark Elphick is the first town crier in his hometown for over a century. Funded by the Friends of Dorking, he can be seen (and heard) in the town on the second Saturday of the month but on his weekends off enjoys supporting the local rugby club and exploring the surrounding hills

Read more
Friday, March 2, 2018

Rural communities throughout the UK could be eligible to receive funding via the Calor Rural Community Fund from energy provider Calor

Read more
Thursday, March 1, 2018

Newspapers, now more than ever, are full of news of celebrity divorces and everyone will have read horror stories about somebody “being taken to the cleaners” or conversely “getting off scot-free”. There is so much misinformation out there that you can find yourself in a bewildering situation, not knowing what is true and what to expect when your own relationship is breaking down

Read more
Friday, February 16, 2018

Hayley Bystram, Founder and Director of Surrey-based dating agency Bowes-Lyon Partnership, explains how you can take back control of your romantic life.

Read more
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Surrey's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Property Search