Phone: 07850 475 878
Jo is a partner in FDS Corporate Finance, with bases in Birmingham, London, and Yorkshire, and a partner in FDS Knowledge, a specialist training and development business. She has bought and sold more than 300 companies in the last 20 years, specialising in owner managed companies with many being family-owned businesses. She is currently non-executive director of four other companies: Anchor Magnets, Exact Business Taxation Services, Ampersand commerce and Sticky Content.
Jo is also chairman for TQUK and sits on the board for the Angelus Advisory Group. Jo is also the author of The Financial Times Guide to Finance for Non Financial Managers and was Sunday Times non-executive director (NED) of the year in 2012
Why do you have such a particular interest in working with family businesses ?
My mother took over her father's engineering business on his death aged 22, not the posh kind of business - she could use the blow torch if needed. She died when I was 16 and my cousin took over having been her apprentice. 10 months later my father, a new widower, was the subject of a board room coup it was either hand over the business for a pittance or I will take it anyway, my cousin took it away! So Dad set up a clothing factory making kids clothes, however luck was not on our side. With the house pledged and hugely geared, the 3 day week hit us and my father lost everything including our family home. For some inexplicable reason this all seemed to me to be a way of life so of course I started my own business at 29 years old. Over that time I have employed my husband (both of them!) my children (all of them) my sister (just one of them) my dad and an array of friends. Ah, you learn quickly this is not a good idea - when things are going great it's fine of course, but maybe not quite as easy when things don't quite go to plan! I believe it wasn't their fault it's mine, I went in with my eyes wide open but it's always had its problems (and that putting it mildly!!). So I work with family business because I know them. I have lived with them. I am one!
How long have you been part of the FIB Community?
My involvement has been quite recent.
Why did you feel it important to become part of FIB?
The people in family businesses are often the ones that plundered their pension scheme, sacrificed their family life and personal health for the well-being of their staff. Family businesses are vital to the economy and society - they take responsibility very seriously. This is often not by choice but viewed as the only way. Family businesses feel a duty to protect legacy and preserve the business for future generations. I'm part of FIB, and act as one of their Ambassadors, because I am quite simply passionate about family businesses and ensuring they have the necessary support to continue into the future.
What value does the FIB Community bring to your family business clients?
I think the community is about gaining perspective. It's critical to have reassurance and as part of this, peer support. Those working in family businesses must develop business intelligence and new ideas. Having somewhere to go that understands the dynamics and offer impartial support and facilitation is vital. FIB can almost be viewed as a therapist but one that gets business too.
What are the main benefits of being part of the FIB Community?
The realisation you are not alone. There is someone to share issues with who really understands as they have been down that road at some point. I think it's also about having a trusted place that can connect with you contacts and advisers that you may not know how to access otherwise. FIB can cut out a great deal of wasted time and poor quality advisers. It's one community working together.
Can you share a standout story from your work with families in business?
Families at war with eachother are actually much like a world at war. You need to find something that unites the parties and builds a common ground. It could be a realisation of what they could loose and I don't just mean financially but also in terms of legacy. My tool has always been humour. In my experience this can reunite the worst of clans. Of course this doesn't always work. When a "dad" has been MD for 30 years and agrees to stand down, he rarely means it in his heart. It is often and very sadly a tragic event that is the catalyst for change; a premature death or serious illness perhaps. There's no real plan or strategy - just reactive behaviour. My resonating family business story, though not one with a happy ending, is of a company which the grandfather had started. His son then ran it successfully for 3 decades which eventually had a board of directors containing his 6 sons. None of them were really up to the role of MD let alone holding a directorship. I recall him telling me he had more passengers than British Rail but as their father, he felt a duty to take them on the journey. As a spritely 80 years old, this gentleman simply decided he could do no more and had the unenviable job of selecting a successor as the heir to the so called 'throne'. Of course what he should have done, and indeed knew he should have done, was look externally but he couldn't bring himself to do that. With Hobson's Choice ahead of him he choose not the oldest son but number three - feeling he was the best able of a limited bunch. He then divided the shares, although unequally, giving his oldest son 75% of the shares (this was, I understand, a move based on guilt due to the fact he hadn't made him MD). Within 12 months, he had passed away. His oldest son brought about a voluntary winding up order to the company, as was his right, and he collected his fortune in cash. This left his brothers high and dry - and no legacy for his father or grandfather.