Strategies for Communication Across Generations

Third generation success! They say by the time a family business transitions to the third generation the chance of failing increases. However, this hasn’t been the case for the WA-based Mostyn family, who have strong communication and have now been in business together for over 90 years.

While they have faced challenging situations in each new generation, the Mostyns have bucked the trend and stayed together beyond the third generation.

In achieving this success, Andrew Mostyn cites, the importance of independent advice, good communication, clear family values and developing a sense of stewardship across generations, in the following matrix:

Communication

Jacqui Clarke, a Deloitte Private Partner and expert in family businesses, shares: “Regardless of size or generation a family business is in, they face challenges. No family business is more or less complicated than the next; the true indicator of their success is how they work through their challenges. In my experience, a culture of stewardship and communication is critical in order to achieve this.”

Why have the Mostyns been successful? 

The Value of an Independent Voice

One might say they were ahead of their time, establishing an external board in the 1960’s. Since then they have also appointed a non-family member CEO. The group recognise the positive impact independence has and they seek advice from advisory boards, external advisors, banks, accountants, and lawyers. They have also established a family council as well as a family constitution.

The Power of Communication

Jacqui Clarke explains that “the value of open and honest communication is paramount”. The Mostyns could see this as a vehicle to success and developed their own communication portal described by them as something similar to Facebook.

The family now have transparency of information, and a simple channel for intergenerational interaction. There is a content strategy and family members have a responsibly to educate others on different topics; including business, foundations, and history. With geographical difficulties, the trusted portal keeps the family together.

The Importance of Understanding Family Values

As generations pass and the family grows larger, developing and understanding core family values becomes important in maintaining family unity. The Mostyn family updated their values in 2007 with a greater focus on philanthropy and community.

Andrew reveals, “Taking the time to go on a family retreat together can be a powerful way to develop and communicate family values. Coming together face-to-face also enables families to reflect on the journey they have been on, meet with each other in a relaxed setting, and most importantly to have some fun!”

Having a Sense of Stewardship.

Family businesses rely on the next generation for future growth but also the current generation for maintenance. For the Mostyns, as a third generation business with a fourth generation on the horizon, no one is a lone ranger. In all aspects of decision-making, and in all actions, they consider what is of benefit to the entire family. This sense of stewardship extends beyond the family. Aligning to their values of corporate social responsibility, the group recognise the benefit they should have on society, their community, the environment and the workplace.

No family business is the same, and each will face unique challenges as generations pass. There is no silver bullet that will ensure success, however by considering the points above; you can give your family a better chance of success in the next generation and beyond.