Keeping it in the family

A nationwide survey by Bond University’s Australian Centre for Family Business (ACFB) will compare the performance of family-owned companies to their non-family owned counterparts in the current economic climate.

The survey mirrors a major study being conducted by Europe’s Family Business Network. The ACFB’s research will also benchmark Australian businesses at an international level.

A joint initiative with KPMG and Family Business Australia (FBA), it’s the fifth annual family business survey to be conducted.

The KPMG - Family Business Australia Business Climate Survey will be distributed to 6000 businesses across Australia, extracting key information about issues including resilience, generational succession, and the impact of the global financial crisis and climate change.

Manager of O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, Shane O’Reilly, is one of many Gold Coast family business owners set to take part in the survey.

O’Reilly says the current economic climate presents both challenges and benefits for private family-owned companies.

“Family businesses can capitalise on the current economic climate in ways many larger corporations are not able to,” says O’Reilly.

“Family businesses generally have a long-term outlook and are not under as much pressure to look at monthly profits and meet short term targets. There’s also the ability to make quick decisions and move in a different direction to meet the market if need be, without having to wait for months to consult with a board of directors.

“The major hurdle at the moment is lack of capital – public companies are in a position to raise money quickly through shares, whereas private family-owned companies now have to meet tighter conditions with financiers and may have to dip into personal savings to maintain their services.”

Co-director of Bond University’s ACFB, Dr Justin Craig, says the survey will provide important insights into family business during the economic crisis.

“This year’s survey is different from research we have conducted in the past for several reasons,” says Craig.

“For the first time, non-family businesses are included in the sample of respondents so we can demonstrate exactly how the current financial turmoil is affecting different sectors of the market.

“Traditionally, research has shown that family businesses often surpass their corporate-owned competitors in terms of success, and we hope to see a similar sentiment of resilience in this year’s survey.

“Another major benefit is the fact that we will be able to compare Australian business trends with what is happening in the European market, and it will be interesting to use this
data to track how sentiments change over the coming years.

“The survey results will not only help financiers and advocacy groups gain a better understanding of family business needs, but will also be an invaluable resource for Bond University students currently completing their Executive MBA specialising in family business management.”

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