The governance gene tormenting family businesses

Family businesses employ half of the Australian workforce and can be paragons of productivity and workplace happiness. But governance remains an Achilles heel.

The soap opera of Gina Rinehart’s legal battles with her children is emblematic of the challenges now facing Australia’s family businesses. The Rinehart saga captures a story that comes up time and time again in many a family business: retirement plans on permanent hold, succession planning setting off purgative battle scenes and governance that leaves you feeling you’ve just been knifed. As Tolstoy reminded us in that first line of Anna Karenina, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

It’s a problem ignored by business schools, management books and the mainstream media. Their focus is on listed companies yet two out of every three businesses in Australia are owned and run by families. Go figure!

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