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Interview with the head of Family Business Consulting at KPMG LLP in London Ken McCracken (part 1)

16.5.2016 —

KPMG is a leading global network of independent firms offering audit, tax and advisory services. We are pleased to publish an interview with the head of Family Business Consulting at KPMG LLP in London Mr. Ken McCracken on our website.

May I ask you for your short introduction for Czech audience? How long are you active in the area of family business advising? Why you moved from law practice? What brought you to this area? What do you like mostly on the area of family business advising?

I entered this field in 1995 when the law firm of which I was then a partner was invited to help found the Centre for Family Enterprise (CFE) at Glasgow Caledonian University. This was the first university based education programme for family businesses in the United Kingdom.

I quickly learned that research and knowledge in relation to family businesses was expanding and in 1997 I became the first lawyer in the United Kingdom to join the Family Firm Institute (FFI).

The families who attended the conferences and education programmes at the CFE started to ask for help with their challenges and, based on what I had learned at the CFE and FFI, I decided that the help they needed was different from the practice of law.

Hence in 2000 I formed Family Business Solutions (FBS) with Dr. Barbara Murray Ph.D. who was the academic director of the CFE.

In 2013 I became joint managing director of a new international consulting group called Withers Consulting Group and most recently I was invited to become the Head of Family Business Consulting at KPMG LLP in London.

The main differences between law and family business consulting, in my view, can be summarised as follows:

Family businesses need help from advisers who can provide technical specialism but families also often need help in making decisions about the future before the specialists can really get down to doing their work.

I like consulting work because I find it is an effective way to help families. I don’t claim that our approach is better than other types of adviser, but it is different and our field is way beyond what we do being just about so-called soft skills.

I am curious about how family businesses work and I like finding new research and ideas that we can develop into practical help for clients. Due to having started in a university based programme with one of the leading academics in the field, I am committed to both knowledge development and being an effective practitioner. Our approach can be described as “pracademic”.

Could you introduce to our audience your current practice?

We advise entrepreneurs, established family businesses and family offices in relation to governance; in other words, how they need to be organized in order to continue being successful. This includes

What are, generally and globally, main challenges for family firms?

In general terms family businesses across the world all face the challenge of the family and their business becoming more complex. As this happens the family need to agree answers to 3 key questions:

If a family does not answer these questions then they are hoping that they can continue to govern their business based on assumptions and understandings, but too often this leads to mistaken assumptions and misunderstandings and the type of conflict that most families want to avoid.

We asked Mr. McCracken more questions. What would he consider most relevant challenges for Central European family firm or how family businesses shall choose an appropriate expert? We are pleased to publish answers to these questions in second part of an interview next week.


Stanislav Servus

Stanislav Servus je zakladatelem portálu a advokát, který se ve své více než dvacetileté praxi zaměřuje na oblast správy a ochrany rodinného majetku, oblast korporátních projektů, M&A a vytváření společných podniků. Stanislav se též dlouhodobě věnuje problematice rodinných firem, jejich vedení i vlastnictví, mezigeneračnímu transferu kapitálu, tématu svěřenských fondů, dědického plánování, a systému tzv. family business governance (včetně vytváření rodinných ústav).