Family enterprises are economic powerhouses that account for nearly half of the country’s private-sector GDP. With many family business owners and leaders now either retiring or getting close to retirement, ensuring the strength and continuity of the companies they’ve worked so hard to build has become a critical imperative, says Tina Di Vito, partner and national leader of family office services at MNP LLP, a Calgary-based national accounting, tax and business consulting firm.
“Family businesses often focus on running their business first and foremost and inadvertently overlook strategic planning for the future of the family enterprise,” she says. “In some cases, there’s a lot of potential for conflict, and people just don’t want to have the difficult conversations around who should lead the company in the future, who’s getting more money and how ownership of the business should be structured.”
A comprehensive financial roadmap can help family businesses resolve – or even pre-empt – conflict between family members and stakeholders, manage the transition of leadership to the next generation and build an enduring legacy.
“With a financial roadmap, you have a blueprint to guide you through the various aspects of being part of a family enterprise – from managing the business, succession to the next generation of leaders, protecting the family’s assets and promoting the values that are important to your family,” says Ms. Di Vito.
What would such a roadmap look like? Ms. Di Vito says this invaluable resource would, ideally, detail assets, ownerships and plans for the business, the family as well as individual family members to provide a clear and comprehensive picture of the entire family business landscape.
Components for the business aspect of the roadmap would include such documents as balance sheets and income statements for the company, business strategy and succession plan. On the family and individual side, the roadmap would outline family and individual net worth, cash flow, assets such as real estate, estate plans and personal lifestyle continuity plans.
“The roadmap is intended to guide and protect both the family business and the family,” says Ms. Di Vito. “That’s why it looks not only at the assets and plans for the business but also at the assets and plans for individual family members.”
John Hughes, senior VP of private enterprise at MNP, says effective family business financial roadmaps are those that follow the “three-circle model,” which recognizes the overlap of three groups in the family business system: family, business and ownership.
“Where the lines intersect between these three groups, that’s where the conflicts lie,” says Mr. Hughes. “There will always be transitional issues as generations two and three start to come on. Our view and purpose at MNP is to help families and businesses get through to the next stage through a financial roadmap that considers the three elements of the model.”
Creating a family business financial roadmap is a group affair that takes time and co-operation, says Mr. Hughes. “These conversations are best done when everyone is healthy. You also need to be prepared in advance and ready to really think through things.”
It’s also important to ensure a family business financial roadmap is built on the same values and vision that drive the enterprise and the people behind it, adds Mr. Hughes.
“Part of the work we do with families is helping them define their mission statement both as a business and as a family, and then ensuring that the goals and actions in the roadmap align with this mission statement,” he says. “From talking to our clients, we know that legacy is important to family business owners. They’re thinking about how they want to be remembered by future generations.”
While COVID-19 is taking an incredible toll on people’s wellness, finances and families – and deserves an elevated precedence during this difficult time – MNP remains committed to helping clients, team members and communities adapt to an evolving landscape. To help manoeuvre through COVID-19 and return to optimal operations, MNP has created a COVID-19 Business Advice Centre – continually updated with information, insights and guidance from team members as well as national and international authorities.
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