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'We have served family firms for generations'

By Girvan Gault

At their heart, all businesses are family businesses. Entrepreneurs and great ideas don't spring forward, fully-formed - they are often supported, advised and counselled formally and informally by family members who can act as the first focus group, or the most honest critics.

From farmers to pharmacists, Northern Ireland's business culture lends itself to family connections - and for good reason, with strong local communities to be served.

We're a business that has 'trust' at the heart of our ambition, so we recognise that being able to bring in trusted advice and support from family members can be an attractive way to develop and grow a sustainable business, reducing transactions costs and issues of staff turnover.

But what I've seen the most successful businesses do is use their family-owned background as a strength to change and grow.

It can be difficult - bringing in professional skills from the outside can be a challenge, as owners or founders learn to let go of certain responsibilities that they once held, and the external voices tread across certain unwritten rules that might exist in the context of a family business.

Yet the potential benefits - of new thinking, new strategic insight, and a change to the personal dynamics of a company - can be significant.

Succession planning is also often something that needs to be addressed, as family business owners work through how they want to pass on the day-to-day running to the next generation and ensure continuity. This is balanced by a need to get on with doing the things that have helped to build and run the business up to that point.

So a gap can develop, between the clear aspirations that they have, and the capacity, in terms of time or financial planning, that is in place to help make it happen.

We've supported countless family businesses as they develop in new and exciting ways throughout their history - proudly exporting and developing new markets across the world, or serving generations of the same families in Northern Ireland, adapting to local evolutions and revolutions in taste.

Creightons and CCP Gransden are great examples of this, in not just adapting to change, but leading it.

As we continue to watch the next generation of family business es grow and develop, Ulster Bank has the capacity and the appetite to help them achieve their potential - delivering meaningful help for what matters to industry across Northern Ireland.

  • Girvan Gault is commercial banking director at Ulster Bank

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