The Ties That Bind

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Melanie Hird writes here on the challenges of family businesses. As Director of Seneca Investments, Melanie sources and executes deals involving SMEs – managing an investment portfolio and investor relations together with driving the strategy for the businesses.

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Over 70 per cent of UK businesses are family owned but research indicates that only a fraction – some 13 per cent – survive beyond the third generation.

The turnaround and restructuring of a family owned business can present some particular challenges if the enterprise has been handed down through the generations as if it was merely a legacy project.

The passion, hunger and drive that fuelled the first – and possibly second – generation business can be seriously diluted by succession planning that places inheritance, family loyalty and emotion ahead of profitability.

Companies have to be agile and nimble to stay ahead and the ability to adapt, change and – in some cases – accept failure, can often be a source of conflict when the owners and managers are also relatives.

If a family business is worth saving, I recommend bringing in outside professional experience and expertise to add a fresh dynamic and objective eye to preserve the family asset. When family loyalties lead to a company being in a state of paralysis, no one is necessarily prepared to think the unthinkable.

Turnaround professionals are relentless in drilling down to where the problems lie. Often there are serious issues around the personnel and it needs an outsider to ask the awkward questions. In throwing a lifeline to a family business in distress, experienced external advisers will put the existing management team under extreme scrutiny and inevitably some brutal decisions may have to be made.

Advisers’ solutions may not be what you want to hear, but take them on board and you could transform a failing business into a robust concern which is ripe for a planned and highly profitable sale a few years down the line.

All family enterprises, whether struggling or not, would do well to ask themselves the following:

Would you employ your son or daughter if they were not related to you? Are they in the right role? Do they have a talent for what they do – or could someone else do a better job? Is your son, daughter, niece or nephew interested and passionate about the business, or simply there because it is expected of them?

 Every thriving firm needs a ‘dream maker’ – the one with the passion, commitment and drive who wants to be there, through thick and thin, from 7am-11pm. Who is yours?

Who is holding the business back, treading water and biding their time? Is it time to face facts and let them go?

In my experience, some of the most successful family businesses recognise that their nearest and dearest are best served by gaining valuable experience and skills in the wider world. At a later stage, and if appropriate, they can return to the firm equipped with expertise, new ideas – and the appetite and drive to innovate and challenge the status quo.

For others, maybe it is time they left for good. In the adage that you can’t choose your relatives, there is no reason to let family ties determine the success and sustainability of the business which you – or your parents – have poured commitment, energy and expertise into over the past years or decades

Important information

This information is of a general nature and does not constitute an offer to provide services.

Any opinions or conclusions attributable to Seneca Partners are based on the understanding of the available information at the time of publication. Such opinions or conclusions are subject to change without notice.

The value of investments and/or any income arising from them may fluctuate.

Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance.

Important notice

The products and services shown on this website place capital at risk. Investors may receive less in returns than they have invested. Investments may not allow for capital to be withdrawn on demand. If an investment provides tax relief then this relief is subject to change and is dependant on personal circumstances. Any reference to past performance or forecasted performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

Seneca Partners recommends that any investor seeks specialised financial and/or tax advice before investing. Seneca Partners does not provide advice and the information on this website, including but not limited to news, should not be construed as such.

Please confirm that you understand this warning and wish to proceed.

Risk summary

(Estimated reading time: 2 minutes)

Due to the potential for losses, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) considers this investment to be high risk.

What are the key risks?

  1. You could lose all the money you invest
    • If the business you invest in fails, you are likely to lose 100% of the money you invested. Most start-up businesses fail.
    • Advertised rates of return aren’t guaranteed. This is not a savings account. If the business doesn’t pay you back as agreed, you could earn less money than expected or nothing at all. In addition, if the tenant of the property being financed doesn’t pay the rent due as agreed or vacates the premises, you could earn less money than expected. A higher advertised rate of return means a higher risk of losing your money.
  2. You are unlikely to be protected if something goes wrong
    • Protection from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), in relation to claims against failed regulated firms, does not cover poor investment performance. Try the FSCS investment protection checker at https://www.fscs.org.uk/check/investment-protection-checker/.
    • Protection from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) does not cover poor investment performance. If you have a complaint against an FCA-regulated firm, FOS may be able to consider it. Learn more about FOS protection at https://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/consumers.
  3. You won’t get your money back quickly
    • This type of business could face cash-flow problems that delay payments to investors. It could also fail altogether and be unable to repay any of the money owed to you.
    • Even if the business you invest in is successful, it may take several years to get your money back. You are unlikely to be able to sell your investment early.
    • Even if you are able to sell your investment early, you may have to pay exit fees or additional charges.
    • The most likely way to get your money back is if the business is bought by another business or is wound
      up following the sale of the underlying property. These events are not common.
    • If you are investing in a start-up business, you should not expect to get your money back through dividends. Start-up businesses rarely pay these. This investment aims to make quarterly repayments that comprise both a partial repayment of capital and interest, although this is not guaranteed. It could take over 14 years to receive back an amount equal to the amount you invested.
  4. This is a complex investment
    • This makes it difficult to predict how risky the investment is, but it will most likely be high.
    • You may wish to get financial advice before deciding to invest.
  5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
    • Putting all your money into a single business or type of investment for example, is risky. Spreading your money across different investments makes you less dependent on any one to do well.
    • A good rule of thumb is not to invest more than 10% of your money in high-risk investments. (See https://www.fca.org.uk/investsmart/5-questions-ask-you-invest).

If you are interested in learning more about how to protect yourself, visit the FCA’s website at www.fca.org.uk/investsmart

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Application Form Request – Seneca IHT Service


Application Form Request – Seneca AIM EIS Fund


Application Form Request – Seneca EIS Portfolio Fund


Risk summary

(Estimated reading time: 2 minutes)

Due to the potential for losses, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) considers this investment to be high risk.

What are the key risks?

  1. You could lose all the money you invest
    • If the business you invest in fails, you are likely to lose 100% of the money you invested.
    • Many of the loans ultimately financed by your investment are made to borrowers who can’t borrow money from traditional lenders such as banks. These borrowers have a higher risk of not paying back their loan.
    • Advertised rates of return aren’t guaranteed. If a borrower doesn’t pay back their loan as agreed, you could earn less money than expected. A higher advertised rate of return means a higher risk of losing your money.
  2. You are unlikely to be protected if something goes wrong
    • Protection from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), in relation to claims against failed regulated firms, does not cover poor investment performance. Try the FSCS investment protection checker at https://www.fscs.org.uk/check/investment-protection-checker/.
    • Protection from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) does not cover poor investment performance. If you have a complaint against an FCA-regulated firm, FOS may be able to consider it. Learn more about FOS protection at https://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/consumers.
  3. You won’t get your money back quickly
    • Some of the loans financed by your investment will last for several years. You may need to wait for your money to be returned even if the borrower repays on time.
    • Some Managers may give you the opportunity to sell your investment early through a ‘secondary market’, but there is no guarantee you will be able to find someone willing to buy.
    • Even if your agreement is advertised as affording early access to your money, you will only get your money early if someone else wants to buy your shares or the company in which you are invested has sufficient available capital to buy them from you. If no one wants to buy, it could
      take longer to get your money back.
    • If you are investing for growth, you should not expect to get your money back through dividends as the Service is not designed to pay dividends to investors seeking growth. If you are investing for income, it will take at least 25 years to get your money back purely through dividends.
  4. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
    • Putting all your money into a single business or type of investment for example, is risky. Spreading your money across different investments makes you less dependent on any one to do well.
    • A good rule of thumb is not to invest more than 10% of your money in high-risk investments. (See https://www.fca.org.uk/investsmart/5-questions-ask-you-invest).
  5. The value of your investment can be reduced
    • The percentage of the business that you own will decrease if the business issues more shares. This could mean that the value of your investment reduces, depending on the basis on which these new shares are issued.
    • If these new shares have additional rights that your shares don’t have, such as the right to receive a fixed dividend, this could further reduce your chances of getting a return on your investment.

If you are interested in learning more about how to protect yourself, visit the FCA’s website at www.fca.org.uk/investsmart

Risk summary

(Estimated reading time: 2 minutes)

Due to the potential for losses, the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) considers this investment to be high risk.

What are the key risks?

  1. You could lose all the money you invest
    • If a business you invest in fails, you are likely to lose 100% of the money you invested in that business. Most start-up businesses fail. Please see page 14 of the Information Memorandum for an overview of the types of businesses this fund invests in.
  2. You are unlikely to be protected if something goes wrong
    • Protection from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), in relation to claims against failed regulated firms, does not cover poor investment performance. Try the FSCS investment protection checker at https://www.fscs.org.uk/check/investment-protection-checker/.
    • Protection from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) does not cover poor investment performance. If you have a complaint against an FCA-regulated firm, FOS may be able to consider it. Learn more about FOS protection at https://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/consumers.
  3. You won’t get your money back quickly
    • Even if the business you invest in is successful, it may take several years to get your money back. You are unlikely to be able to sell your investment early.
    • The most likely way to get your money back is if the business is bought by another business or your shares are sold on the Alternative Investment Market. The latter can only occur if there is a willing buyer.
    • If you are investing in a start-up or EIS qualifying business, you should not expect to get your money back through dividends. Such businesses rarely pay these.
  4. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
    • Putting all your money into a single business or type of investment for example, is risky. Spreading your money across different investments makes you less dependent on any one to do well.
    • A good rule of thumb is not to invest more than 10% of your money in high-risk investments. (See https://www.fca.org.uk/investsmart/5-questions-ask-you-invest).
  5. The value of your investment can be reduced
    • The percentage of the business that you own will decrease if the business issues more shares. This could mean that the value of your investment reduces, depending on how much the business grows. Most start-up businesses issue multiple rounds of shares.
    • These new shares could have additional rights that your shares don’t have, such as the right to receive a fixed dividend, which could further reduce your chances of getting a return on your investment.

If you are interested in learning more about how to protect yourself, visit the FCA’s website at www.fca.org.uk/investsmart

Risk summary

(Estimated reading time: 2 minutes)

Due to the potential for losses, the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) considers this investment to be high risk.

What are the key risks?

  1. You could lose all the money you invest
    • If a business you invest in fails, you are likely to lose 100% of the money you invested in that business. Most start-up businesses fail. Please see page 14 of the Information Memorandum for an overview of the types of businesses this fund invests in.
  2. You are unlikely to be protected if something goes wrong
    • Protection from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), in relation to claims against failed regulated firms, does not cover poor investment performance. Try the FSCS investment protection checker at https://www.fscs.org.uk/check/investment-protection-checker/.
    • Protection from the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) does not cover poor investment performance. If you have a complaint against an FCA-regulated firm, FOS may be able to consider it. Learn more about FOS protection at https://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/consumers.
  3. You won’t get your money back quickly
    • Even if the business you invest in is successful, it may take several years to get your money back. You are unlikely to be able to sell your investment early.
    • For companies whose shares are not listed on any exchange (‘unquoted’ or ‘private’ companies), the most likely way to get your money back is if the business is bought by another business or lists its shares on an exchange such as the London Stock Exchange. These events are not common.
    • For companies whose shares are listed on an exchange (such as the AQSE or AIM), the most likely way to get your money back is if the business is bought by another business or your shares are sold on that exchange. The latter can only occur if there is a willing buyer.
    • If you are investing in a start-up or EIS qualifying business, you should not expect to get your money back through dividends. Such businesses rarely pay these.
  4. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
    • Putting all your money into a single business or type of investment for example, is risky. Spreading your money across different investments makes you less dependent on any one to do well.
    • A good rule of thumb is not to invest more than 10% of your money in high-risk investments. (See https://www.fca.org.uk/investsmart/5-questions-ask-you-invest).
  5. The value of your investment can be reduced
    • The percentage of the business that you own will decrease if the business issues more shares. This could mean that the value of your investment reduces, depending on how much the business grows. Most start-up businesses issue multiple rounds of shares.
    • These new shares could have additional rights that your shares don’t have, such as the right to receive a fixed dividend, which could further reduce your chances of getting a return on your investment.

If you are interested in learning more about how to protect yourself, visit the FCA’s website at www.fca.org.uk/investsmart