Family Business Brand Strategy

Almost half of Peartree Brand Strategy clients are family businesses. In 2010 we (then known as Peartree Marketing) and Intuito conducted research into Australian Consumer Attitudes to Family Business Brands (click here to download the report) that indicated their family business status provides these companies with certain brand benefits. Customers associate reduced risk and better customer service with their brands and are likely to choose a family business brand above a non-family competitor.

Family businesses often have entrenched values that make them who they are, making it easy for them to fulfil a brand promise based on those values. Family members grow up with these values and staff who hold similar values are attracted to work in the business.

Corporate-style businesses on the other hand, are forced to manufacture values to which they aspire. For them it is harder to get consistency of the required behaviour from staff who may not instinctively hold these values.

However, promoting your family business status is not enough, particularly when your competitors can make the same claim.

Peartree Brand Strategy works with the management team and family members to develop a compelling brand that builds on its product differentiators, family values and unique heritage. The process is the same as that for corporate brand strategy but with an understanding of the role of the family in building the family business brand. As an Accredited Family Business Adviser Lowen Partridge brings deep understanding of how to bring together the family and the business brand issues.

Family Charter/Constitution

According to John Ward, a leading authority on family business, the two most effective practices that can protect and preserve the family business are:

  1. To build an independent board to strengthen the business; and
  2. To draft a Family Agreement to strengthen the family.

A Family Agreement is defined as any kind of written principals and/or rules that regulate the relationship of the family with its business. These documents are also called Family Charters or Family Constitutions. Family Business Australia tends to use “Family Charter” because it doesn’t have the legal connotations of “constitution” – for the family agreement, whatever its form, is a document of intent rather than a legally binding deed.

A Family Charter helps to keep family ownership unified and committed to the future of the family’s business thereby preventing conflicts and unnecessary misunderstandings. It also works to build the confidence of non-family managers, suppliers and clients.

Importantly a Family Charter enables the next-generation to form expectations for their roles in the business and as future owners.

As an experienced facilitator Peartree Brand Strategy’s principal consultant, Lowen Partridge, an Accredited Family Business Adviser runs workshops with the ownership family to address:

  • How to resolve family firm issues specific to the ownership family
  • What to consider as key elements when making present and future decisions
  • Why the family wishes to address future issues
  • Who is included in decision-making and whom the decisions affect
  • When to review and revise the Charter.

Family Council

Family businesses are notorious for avoiding discussion of upsetting topics. Left unresolved they will most likely fester with the potential to harm both family harmony and the business itself.

The Family Council is the vehicle that enables families to discuss and resolve issues that affect the business and the family. Things like appointing a non-family CEO, purchasing a new business or new plant, promotion of one family member over another all have the potential to cause conflict.

By getting everyone together in a more formal and focused environment rather than random gatherings you have a framework for sharing information, feelings and goals. This gives you a much better chance of resolving issues and getting family commitment to new strategies for the business.

Structure of the Family Council varies depending on the size of the family, number of generations and family groups associated with the business and how the family wants it to be. Some Family Councils involve all family members, others only blood family. Still others keep the Council small, acting more like the family’s equivalent of a board of directors with membership made up of representatives from each family branch who are responsible for keeping their own family group informed.

Peartree Brand Strategy’s principal consultant, Lowen Partridge, an Accredited Family Business Adviser  can assist families to establish their Family Council.

Having decided to establish a Family Council, the first step is to hold a Family Retreat and one of the early roles of the Council will be to develop the Family Charter.

Family Retreats

Some families find value in holding an annual retreat either as part of establishing a Family Council or as an alternative and Peartree Brand Strategy’s principal consultant, Lowen Partridge, an Accredited Family Business Adviser is well qualified to help in the planning and facilitation of the retreat.

A family retreat usually is held over a few days, often a weekend, and away from “home turf”. It could be interstate or just a few kilometres away. Going away reinforces the special meaning of the event and gives family members the space and time to reflect on their thoughts and feelings.

In a sense it’s like holding your own family business conference. The program has a combination of formal and informal activities. For example you may have the mornings dedicated to sessions on the economic outlook, major achievements for the firm, business performance, key issues to be faced in the next 12 months, etc. External consultants like your accountant may be invited to present. The afternoons may be dedicated to family fun activities – golf, tennis, bushwalking, painting,etc. It’s important to include the younger members of the family in the retreat as the future of the business regular exposure by younger members of the family to the whole family involvement will engender a deeper understanding, appreciation and responsibility for the family business.