Achieving Multi-Generational Success with Pioneering Methods


IMAGE Business Club podcast Work Rest Slay features IMAGE contributor editor Melanie Morris speaking with Ann Dugan, Senior Family Enterprise Specialist at Key Capital.

Episode 17 features Ann Dugan. Ann Dugan is one of the foremost internationally recognised financial advisors globally and a great advocate for those women keen to do well, do better and do the right thing.

Ann's career has spanned 30 years and has taken in all three sides of a triangle - entrepreneurship, banking and academia - all of which was inspired and spurred on her initial work as a fourth generation member in a family business. The fact that she has now gone on to mentor, advise and steer the family businesses of others speaks directly about her wealth of knowledge and experience.  

Ann works closely with Key Capital, consulting with their clients, and speaking at their various conferences on entrepreneurship and all aspects of family life.

In this episode of Work Rest Slay, she tells us about her remarkable life and her pioneering methods; as well as the importance of philanthropy and how to have those difficult conversations in the boardroom.

Listen to the IMAGE Work, Rest, Slay podcast via the link below.

Key takeaways from the podcast:

  • The decision around who will take on the leadership role in a family business  (9:40)

For years it was assumed the oldest son would take over, even if that oldest son was either not ready, not willing, or didn't have the personality type of a leader. In some cultures around the world that is still the case but in many places, where there has been research and education, it has been best in class and based on who in the family should be the one to take on these leadership positions so the family business continues to survive and grow.

“Being born into a family business, the nuances and the family dynamics are always present.”
Ann Dugan - Senior Family Enterprises Specialist, Key Capital
  • Conflict in families and having difficult conversations (12:31)

Tips for having difficult conversations, be it a family business or just business colleagues in general, number one is set an agenda: your conflict discussion needs focus.

  • Picking good investors and leadership teams  (21:17)

Ann’s own family business was grounded in a strong spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, always looking at doing things differently and always scanning for opportunities, but she was also an entrepreneur with her own businesses in food retail (pizza business) and hazardous packaging.

“It was owning my own businesses that I learnt most about how to pick good investors. A bad investor can cause a lot of chaos in a business.”
Ann Dugan, Senior Family Enterprises Specialist, Key Capital
  • It is often the soft skills that can hold a business back (30:55)

It was in setting up the Institute of Entrepreneurial Excellence where family businesses came looking for help, many of them suppliers to the steel industry that was dying, that Ann realised her experience growing up in a family-owned business came to the fore. ‘We could work on the hard skills of business, but it was the soft, behavioural skills that were keeping us back.  Dad, Mom, Grandma, Grandpa, didn't want to change or may want to change but didn't want to spend money, Junior wasn’t ready be involved but the business needed all hands on deck and working hard.  That's when I really started to learn from a less emotional, personal level, that running a family business requires the soft skills and the hard skills to come together.‘

  •  Common traits in Irish family businesses (39:27)

Some are common all over the world and some economies are more like my family business in southern Georgia, they're very patriarchal and male-led and I found that in Ireland as well.  Businesses created in the 30s or 40s or 50s tend to be very male-led and now they are starting to think about what to do next? The strength areas are the love of their family business, the love of their employees, many of them are in small areas throughout the country, so they are a big employers.

"In Ireland, in my work with multi-generational family businesses, I found many are needing to be in that transition planning stage and thinking about ‘what do we do next?'"
Ann Dugan, Senior Family Enterprises Specialist, Key Capital
  • The negativity I've seen is around communication  (41:41)

Communication is low. Even though the Irish language has more words in articulation than any other country in my opinion, there has not been a practice that is deep of how to communicate about these issues.  We can talk about the balance sheet or the financial statement, no problem. But now let's talk about your goals and your dreams as a member of my family, as a senior leader in our company - what would you like to do? We're working hard to get that communication up a bit and more dynamic.

Primarily this is through family meetings, which are really important. We work hard at facilitating those family meetings to occur, working with a multi-generational group of family members to ensure the meeting has learning content about the business, learning content about each other and has a fun element.

  • Advice for the next generation wanting to amplify their voice and position in the business (49:04)

There is a very bad word called ‘entitlement’. Individuals feel that they're coming into the business now as a junior, whether it's a cousin or the sibling, three generations down, may have been raised to the level of protection where the senior generation has taken care of everything, so they come with this entitlement, versus when I think of self actualization.  I'll go back to my own family, my Grandmother practically from the moment I could hear said: 'Everybody does something’ whether it's volunteering for something where it's not tied to a pay cheque, or you find a career or trying a career that you like, but everybody does something. That was her mantra and I use that today.

"Learn. Learn. Learn. Avoid entitlement."
Ann Dugan, Senior Family Enterprises Specialist, Key Capital
  • Hard and important decisions - bringing in an external CEO, liquidating part of the business to invest for future generations (50:49)

Other decisions and dynamics are around whether is it time to sell the business, sell part of it, or even sell later in the next generation.  Part of the decision to wait until the next generation might be if no one in the junior generation is ready to take over right now, that could mean hiring an external non-family CEO so that work can be done with leaders in the next generation. These are things that are hard decisions and important decisions and it's about a long-term view of this what’s best for this generation and that also generations into the future. 

Many families will say, ‘You know what, in this business we're in, there's a lot of risk and a lot of unknowns, especially in the world as it is today, so we're much better off to be to be at the top of the curve and provide liquidity to our family via a full or partial sale of the business. Then we can invest it in the markets and grow it to a level that provides for a family for generations to come.’

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