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When Circumstances Take Charge in the Family Business

When Circumstances Take Charge in the Family Business

21st May 2018

Running any business is not without its challenges but when circumstance takes charge, particularly in a family run business, the effects can ripple right through the business and the family in the business.

It is often the case that decisions taken in the past can influence those at the helm of a family run business in ways that might appear illogical to the rest of us. It is not uncommon for example for disagreements that have taken place in the past to dictate or set a precedent for what happens in the future.

The overarching point to make is not fall into the trap of letting circumstance dictate what happens to your family business and to recognise that time changes everything. Keeping an open mind and always being prepared to discuss, plan and agree the way forward achieves far better outcomes for the business family and the family business.

Here are some advisory points that should help in these situations:
• It is worthwhile seeking out a neutral advisor who can help the family to open up a wider discussion about the present circumstances and to find ways to achieve unity and harmony within the family.
• Open up discussion amongst the whole family to find and recognise the circumstances that led to the present day situation.
• Don’t shy away from discussing the history. To avoid it will only mean it is not addressed properly and will linger as a source of enduring conflict.
• Be honest about your own feelings with others.
• Recognise that everyone within the family has a legitimate point of view, which may be different from yours.
• Don’t try to ignore the problem. It won’t go away.

Make sure family members have a Will in place. So many family business owners don’t have a Will or have a Will that will not achieve the desired outcome. The expectations of everyone currently involved may not be met if an unexpected situation occurs, and the consequences can be catastrophic for the business, the source of wealth and stability for the family.

Mark Bradford is a Specialist Family Business Advisor at Family Business Solutions (FBS) the family business consultancy arm of Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP. For help or advice with any family business related issues contact

The information contained in this newsletter is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of relevant law and practice as at May 2018. Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP cannot be held responsible for any action taken or not taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be taken on any individual matter. Transmissions to or from our email system and calls to or from our offices may be monitored and/or recorded for regulatory purposes. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered office: 302 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, G2 5RZ. A limited liability partnership registered in Scotland, number SO 300336.