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Concluding remarks - IFC Family Business Governance Handbook

Provided by IFC Corporate Governance

Family businesses are the backbone and the main driver of growth in many, if not most economies. Because of their nature, family businesses face many additional challenges to those that their counterparts have to deal with. Some of these challenges can be addressed by adopting a sound corporate governance structure within the company. This governance structure should clearly define the roles, responsibilities, rights, and interaction among the company’s main governing bodies.

The responsibility for corporate governance tasks in a family business is generally shared among the owners, the board of directors and the senior management. However, family members probably have more responsibility in ensuring that their business is governed in a way that will make it viable and sustainable in the long term. In addition, family members’ duty is not only limited to the governance of their company, they are also responsible for the governance of their family and its relationship with the business. Setting up a solid family governance system early in the lifecycle of the family will help anticipate and resolve potential conflicts among family members about business issues. This will make it possible for family members to concentrate on other key issues such as growing the business.

In addition to their own governance, family members have to set up an adequate structure for their company’s board of directors and senior management. A skilled, predominantly independent, and well organized board of directors would make it possible to set the right strategy of the company and properly oversee its management’s performance. Also, a professional and well-driven management is essential to running the day-to-day activities of the company. The choice of directors and senior managers should be based on their qualifications and performance and not on their ties to the family.

Finally, it is very important that families in business become aware of the importance of these issues and start building an adequate corporate governance structure as soon as possible. Waiting until the size of the family is very large, and its business operations more complex would make it very difficult to address the already existing conflicts between family members. A timely and clear governance structure would make it easier to maintain family cohesion and its members’ interest in the family and its business.

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