Family Business Director

Corporate Finance & Planning Insights for Multi-Generational Family Businesses

Dividend Policy

Distribute or Reinvest?

Woolrich Case Study

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal chronicled the slow demise of the Woolrich Woolen Mill.  For the first time in the company’s 170 year history, it will no longer have any U.S. based production.  The Woolrich saga is a vivid reminder of how challenging the appropriate balance between dividends and reinvestment is for family business directors (and of the real-life consequences those decisions can have).  For this post, we asked two (hypothetical) colleagues with differing perspectives to review and comment on the recent story.

Talking to the Numbers

What Business Is Your Family Business In?

When engaging in shop talk about a client project, our colleagues inevitably start by asking, “What business is the client in?” In nearly all cases, the appropriate response to the question is a brief description of the client’s industry. But for a small minority of clients whose financial performance is truly extraordinary, the correct response is that they are in the “money making” business. For these clients, the particular “it” of what they do is secondary to the fact that they make a lot of money doing it. Has your family business joined the exclusive club whose members are in the “money making” business?

Capital Allocation

Is Your Family’s Capital “Lazy?”

What We’ve Been Reading

At a recent meeting with longstanding family business clients, management mentioned that one of their independent directors had introduced the term “lazy capital” into the family’s vocabulary.  We had never heard that term before, but it perfectly encapsulates something we see at too many family businesses: an undisciplined capital allocation process that tolerates sustained underperformance.  We ran across a couple articles this week that, while written with public companies in mind, made us think about the perils of “lazy” family capital.


How Should We Respond to an Acquisition Offer?

Successful businesses don’t have to go looking for potential acquirers—potential acquirers are likely to come looking for them. Most of our family business clients have no intention of selling in the near-term, and yet they often receive a steady stream of unsolicited offers from eager suitors. Many of these offers can be quickly dismissed as uninformed or bottom-fishing, but serious inquiries from legitimate buyers of capacity occasionally appear that require a response.


AutoZone Provides Roadmap for Management Succession

The Founder’s Exit Doesn’t Need to Be the End of the Story for Shareholders

Management transition is a sensitive topic for many family businesses.  Founders of successful family enterprises are by definition exceptional individuals.  The challenge for family business directors is ensuring that the unique attributes of key managers contribute to the sustainability of the family enterprise instead of crippling the business through unhealthy over-reliance or dependence on a single individual. Pitt Hyde’s (AutoZone founder and long-time director) recently announced transition highlights three lessons for family business directors and managers.

Dividend Policy

Dividend Reminders

Takeaways from General Electric

The recent announcement that General Electric is slashing its shareholder payouts by more than 90% has put dividends in the headlines in recent days.  The news coverage provides an opportunity for family business directors to re-visit dividend policy at their own companies.  While we wouldn’t want to suggest that the GE dividend news tells savvy family business directors anything they didn’t already know, a few reminders about dividend basics seem fitting.

Talking to the Numbers

What Do Your Customers Pay For?

It may be a tiresome cliché, but your family business really does make money buying low and selling high. It’s important to think about gross margin, because it tells you how much of a “mark-up” your customers are willing to pay for your good or service. The higher the “mark-up” the more revenue will be available to cover operating expenses and generate an operating profit.

Consulting Services

Family Business Advisory Services

Mercer Capital provides financial education services and other strategic financial consulting to family businesses