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Law for Business

Knowhow - guidance - precedents

29 MAY 2015

Gaining the edge - how the culture of your family business can be used to obtain a competitive advantage

Gaining the edge - how the culture of your family business can be used to obtain a competitive advantage
David Emanuel
Managing partner (London office), Veale Wasbrough Vizards

This is the final article considering culture in your family business.

The previous articles appeared in the March and May editions of our Family Business Law Brief.

Going the extra mile

Once you have identified and agreed your family business' culture and values, you can ensure your staff put them into practice by providing them with examples of:

  • positive behaviours that demonstrate the values and culture
  • negative behaviours that work against those values
  • milestones that indicate you are going in the right direction
This will involve further engagement with staff in order to come up with examples that are relative to them. It may be a time consuming process, but in our experience it is worthwhile in helping staff understand and believe in the business' values.

The values should be incorporated into your family business' training, career development and financial reward structures. Senior management will also need to fully buy into the process, as their support and willingness to embrace the necessary behaviours is essential.

Does it actually make any difference?

I would say a very definite 'yes'/

In my own business (law), we were prompted to look closely at culture and values following a merger where 60 people from law firm Vizards Tweedie in London joined with 240 people from law firm Veale Wasbrough in Bristol in 2009. Both had long business histories, however we wanted to create a single new culture for the merged firm, to benefit our clients and staff. We originally thought that the principle value of the process would be easy to break down any 'us and them' attitudes. It certainly achieved that, but the outcome has been much greater than our limited original aspiration. In fact, it has been quite transformational, both in the way we view and run our business and interact with each other, and in the way we are viewed by, and work with, our clients and stakeholders.

We are by no means a perfect example and remain a work in progress, but our culture is a definite strength of our business. It can be for your family business, too.
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