It’s no secret disruption comes from unexpected places – and can happen overnight. We’ve seen demographic shifts, globalization and technology start to impact family businesses of all shapes and ownership structures, creating both challenges and opportunities to survive in and beyond this digital age.
The good news is family businesses are looking to protect and, better yet, capitalize on disruption. And they’re well-positioned to do so. The EY Family Business Survey 2018 finds that large family businesses create cultures that are agile, foster innovation and reward fresh thinking – all conditions that help fuel disruption in the marketplace.
On top of that, respondents are boosting investments in areas of technology and innovation, looking at new products and services, IT systems and controls, human capital and production capacity as the top priorities to fuel growth.
But as technological disruption advances and IT starts to consume a larger piece of the puzzle, are family businesses leveraging their available talent to the fullest in order to overcome risks and capitalize on opportunities? The EY survey found that 45% of respondents are currently relying on the next generation of their family (NextGen) to help identify potential disruption – that means over half of respondents are not using their homegrown talent effectively.
There is a big opportunity for those family businesses not using NextGen to put them to work. With nearly all family businesses placing a high focus on enhancing their innovation agenda, this is an area younger members of an organization can really excel.
Consider this: NextGen represents the first truly digital generation. Technology is second nature to them and so is uncertain change and disruption – it’s been a constant part of their daily lives. Therefore, NextGen has a large role to play when it comes to identifying disruptive threats and emerging trends that can help futureproof the business.
Although, this transformation won’t come overnight. Family businesses need to start by giving NextGen a solid grounding in general business education to enhance their digital talents, and be included in ongoing family business discussions.
Contrary to typical business recommendations, my advice is to forget the numbers. Do not look at experience in terms of age or years at the company. Instead, consider the value your NextGen has to offer and be proactive in engaging them. By reaching out and developing their talent from the get-go, your NextGen can help you embed a culture for innovation that’s nimble, fosters growth and promotes new thinking.
To learn more about EY’s NextGen Academy training program, visit us at ey-nextgen.com.
Stephen McIntyre is an EY Canada Partner, Private Client Services