The Family Firm!

As a nation many of us will be supporting Her Majesty the Queen and recognising the 70th jubilee anniversary of her ascension to the throne.  What an achievement!  70 years of running and guiding not only her family but also the nation through several generations.

For many of us we may never understand what goes into the role of being the head of the United Kingdom, Commonwealth realms, Head of the Church of England, and the Royal family.   But we can relate it to running a family business with the Queen taking the role as Managing Director or CEO.

Heading up a business, leading individuals, and teams, in a constantly changing national and international landscape develops strength of character, self-discipline and management skills. And I think that we can say that our Queen has an amazing strength of character.

Like that of a CEO, her vision, goals, and decisions are visible by the nation and a global audience.

How often is it that we have a head of a business, running that business for 70 years? Not often but we know in Acorn, that it does happen. Whilst many individuals will choose to semi-retire or fully retire from the family business, a founding owner and perhaps family member can remain in an influential position for a very long time.

We have often seen relationships and influence continue beyond the times at which an individual could have retired from a role; continuing to influence sometimes guiding, advising, and sometimes causing frustration for others working within the business, who may not be as emotionally invested.   For the founding or long-term incumbent, fear of change, or fear that their legacy and traditions will be forgotten can mean that they resist passing the baton on. In our experience what can help resolve this is a clear vision and succession plan.

Succession planning

The Royal family with its traditions and hierarchy provides a very clear path for future Kings or Queens, which we will all see in the future at the point when her eldest child, Prince Charles succeeds her.  Of course, we can’t see into the future, and it may well be that the reigns could fall to her grandson William who we have seen is becoming more and more involved in royal engagements.

What we know at Acorn Support is that a clear plan of succession is important not just because the business is never left without a Head but also because it keeps a business moving forwards.  Clearly though this is a little more complex than just appointing people.  We often support clients with structured planning, Coaching and in some cases Training to help the individuals move to the next stage of their working life.

Have you considered who will take over your role when you choose to step into a new position?


As is often the case within family businesses, it is usual to find other family members employed in the business.  This may be deliberate, and it goes without saying that employing a family member should not be different to employing any other individual.

But we have found that tradition and history can play its part when it comes to recruiting someone from the family or who is a friend.  It is hard for any leader who has an emotional or biased view because they know the individual already. And that is often how Acorn get involved, bringing a more robust process and structure to recruitment.

Any leader employing family or friend will have to be sure of the implications on a psychological level and we would always advise that they use the same criteria for recruiting a family member, establishing what the role needs, is there a good skill fit, and is the role and responsibility clear?

For those who have been involved in a family business for a long time with its traditions and history, new ways of doing things, new thinking and trends can take them out of their comfort zone and we have found that keeping people informed and supporting them through Coaching can be extremely helpful.


Whether family members or employees not connected to the owner, all should be clear what their role requires them to do, what they are responsible for and what the company policies, procedures, and values are.

Like most HR companies we often provide policies and procedures, and we work with our family business clients to identify and communicate the values of the business to all employees.

On occasion we have helped a clients address issues when the conduct of family member hasn’t aligned with values or what their responsibilities are.  This can be extremely helpful so that the leader is separated from the issue and things are dealt with professionally and fairly. And things are seen to be dealt with by others in a fair and objective way.

The concept of family members can get away with “anything because they are family” should not be the case. However, the nuances of family dynamics are an area we are mindful of when supporting a client in such matters.

So how do we support our clients who are family businesses?

We listen, observe and learn so that we understand the emotional bonds, the relationships and influencers and then working together we support the family business owner to resolve those issues.

Metaphorically ‘our door is always open’ we are based in the Black Country and our clients range from Manufacturers, to Healthcare.  We have over 70 years of experience dealing with all aspects of HR across numerous industries and sectors.

Give us a call because we can help you resolve those people issues and plan for the future. Call Claire on 01384 939495 or email on

Read More