Letting New Hands Take the Helm


The challenge of handing on the baton to the next generation has not become any easier.

With family businesses still accounting for 70-95% of the commercial enterprises in most countries, just 30% of EU-based family businesses survive to the next generation (according to trade association European Family Businesses). This is fairly consistent across the developed world, which means, statistically, just 1% will progress from the fourth to fifth generation.

A Marriage made in Heaven?

And, closer to home, there was nothing like a sure thing when Hannah Marriage applied for the marketing director role at the flour-milling business her great, great, great-grandfather co-founded in Chelmsford, Essex, nearly 200 years ago.

Hannah received a real grilling from her dad George, the current joint MD of Marriage’s, and admits: “It was a bit of a shock as people had been quite nice in the other two interviews I’d had! Looking back, dad’s view was, if you are a member of a family with a business, it doesn’t mean you are best suited to run that business.”

Both father and daughter were recently on the Cranfield School of Management, Business Growth Programme and frequently discussed their longer-term strategies for succession with other owner-managers on the programme, many of whom were not from multi-generational family concerns.

Don’t take work home with you

Hannah shares an office with her dad and says the biggest challenge is not to talk shop when they are around other family members, including her mother and two younger brothers, who do not work in the business.

An important legacy

Along with two of her cousins, they are the sixth generation of the family to sit on the board of Marriage’s. Hannah adds: “We know there is a legacy, and my cousins and I would like to pass it on to our children, if we have any. But it is important people are coming into it of their own volition.”


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Topics: succession

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