Business of building

There's help for family-owned businesses

The fourth generation head of Vet's Sheet Metal Ltd. of Edmonton, Sean Rayner is no stranger to the challenges that family businesses can face, especially in these trying times. But he also is familiar with the challenges because of a different role-as board chair of the Edmonton chapter of the Canadian Association of Family Enterprise (CAFE).

CAFE is a national organization offering peer support, education, and networking opportunities for families in business. In an interview with contributor Kelley Stark, Rayner discusses how CAFE can help family-owned construction companies.

WHAT KIND OF HELP DOES CAFE GIVE?

Peer support: Families in business and family businesses share many similar issues regardless of size or industry and bringing them together to discuss their tribulations helps both the business and family to succeed. Our peer support groups are called PAGs [short for Personal Advisory Groups] and are made up of family business members from different families and different industries [non-competitive] and usually meet once a month.
Education: CAFE Edmonton and CAFE Calgary put on monthly or quarterly events in which we bring in speakers or leverage our associate members [non-family business members] to discuss topics relevant to family businesses that range from tax and estate planning or prenuptial agreements to pandemic preparedness.
Networking opportunities: In the past, CAFE has had a strict non-solicitation policy. We are here to support one another and not spend our time selling our services. But the fact is that you share a common bond with many people at CAFE and as you develop relationships with those in a PAG and around the tables at CAFE you are bound to do business with them.

We will be having our Family Enterprise of the Year award presentation at the River Cree [Resort and Casino just west of Edmonton] on March 18. This is a national award. Each of the chapters takes nominations of worthy family businesses and chooses a winner for each market. This year, the local winners will be profiled at our National Symposium in Regina [late May] and a national winner will be selected. Our speaker for the event will be Cameron Herold, founder of 1-800-GOT-JUNK and the BackPocket COO. He is an extremely dynamic speaker with a great story and a great message.

SUCCESSION PLANNING IS AN IMPORTANT ISSUE FOR FAMILY-OWNED FIRMS. WHAT DOES THE OWNER OF A COMPANY NEED TO CONSIDER?

There are several parties involved in the succession of a business: The ownership, the rest of the family [involved in the business or not], and the business. Each has unique needs that need to be met in order to achieve a successful succession, which doesn't always mean passing the business on to another family member. It is important to identify the needs and wants of all of those stakeholders.

WHAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF ADVICE YOU COULD GIVE A FAMILY WHO OWNS A FAMILY BUSINESS?

Create a safe environment to communicate. One of the lessons our family took from CAFE was to create a family council to speak to and a board of advisors. The family council meets regularly to discuss issues that aren't easily brought up. We bring in a facilitator to ensure everyone has their say and that we stick to the agenda.

HOW DOES SOMEONE BECOME A MEMBER OF CAFE?

Contact the local administrator by telephone or email www.cafecanada.ca.


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