Session highlights: Panel discussion — Effective leadership: attracting and retaining top talent in family business

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Transparency, entrepreneurship keys to attracting top talent

To attract and retain top talent, family businesses need to manage the company transparently, create a leadership path for women and allow for a culture of entrepreneurship, said speakers at the Family Business Summit session on effective leadership.

These strategies can allow both family members and non-family members to help the company grow for future generations.Andreas von Specht of AvS — International Trusted Advisors in Germany opened the panel by saying family businesses need to compete in the global war for talent, just like any other company.

“Even if there is offspring interested in running the family business, that doesn’t say anything about their qualifications,” he said. “Great entrepreneurial genes are not necessarily passed on from one generation to the next.” But hiring top executives from outside the family can be painful and costly —especially for companies that have always been family-run.

James Wates CBE of the Wates Group in the UK said that he never wanted to do anything but work for the family business. And while he wants his children to feel as if they’re part of the family business, he would like them to get experience outside of it and not feel pointed to it.

Knowing that his company may need to continue to hire executive talent from outside the family, Wates said it’s important for the business to be run transparently. “If you’re not transparent and able to be measured against your peers, then how can people say that you’re a company they want to work for?”

Carrie Hall, EY Americas Family Business Leader, emphasized the importance of creating a path for women leaders to make sure companies are drawing from the widest possible talent base. She cited research done by EY and Kennesaw State University showing that family businesses are ahead of non-family businesses when it comes to women in leadership.

This can help develop future women leaders, Hall said: “If you have a woman in a leadership position, then other women in the company have someone to look to and see themselves.”

Whether new executives are from inside or outside the family, the business needs to make sure to give them the entrepreneurial freedom to grow the company.

“If you seek to hire true entrepreneurs, then you also have to treat them as such and grant them the space to flourish,” Wates said.

“If you’re not transparent and able to be measured against your peers, then how can people say that you’re a company they want to work for?”

- James Wates CBE


EY - Andreas von Specht

Andreas von Specht

Founding Partner
AvS — International Trusted Advisors

Andreas von Specht started his professional career in the fast-moving consumer goods sector. After joining the global executive search firm Egon Zehnder in 1994, he served as Managing Partner and later coordinated the firm’s worldwide Consumer & Retail Practice. He has expertise in advising larger European families and company owners across a variety of industries and countries.

In 2011, Andreas founded AvS — International Trusted Advisors in Hamburg and Paris. Today, the firm operates from offices in Germany, France, Switzerland and Colombia and cooperates with several strategic partners around the globe. The firm supports family business clients with the evaluation and selection of senior executives and non-executive directors, board reviews, family governance and strategies, and conflict management and mediation.

A native of Hamburg, Andreas serves on several boards and represents his family on the Advisory Board of Berenberg Bank, Germany’s oldest private bank.


EY - Carrie Hall

Carrie Hall

Americas Family Business Leader

Carrie Hall is an Assurance partner with Ernst & Young LLP (US) and the EY Americas Family Business Leader, leading EY’s services to family-owned business across the Americas. Carrie has worked with entrepreneurial family-owned businesses for more than 29 years, providing audits and advising on matters such as growth strategies and sustainability. She previously served as Ernst & Young LLP’s Southeast Region Strategic Growth Markets Leader. Her clients have included some of the world’s largest family businesses.


EY - James Wates

James Wates CBE

Wates Group

James Wates CBE joined Wates Construction in 1983 and the Wates Construction Board as Marketing Director in 1994. He was appointed to the Wates Group Board in 1997 and became Chairman in 2013. He is Chairman of the Nominations Committee and until April 2013 was a member of the Remuneration Committee.

In addition, James is involved with several industry bodies. He is Chairman of Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), Chairman of the BRE Trust, past President of Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and Co-Chairman of BuildUK, a member of CBI and a trustee of the College of Estate Management.

James is also Chairman of the Prince’s Trust Built Environment Leadership Group, Vice Chairman of the Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People, and a patron of the Wates Family Enterprise Trust. In January 2012, James was awarded the CBE for services to Construction and the Charitable sector.