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The Family Business Conference 2023 – Wrap up & Key Learnings

Another successful Family Business Conference has come and gone. It was great to see so many attendees connecting and enjoying the wonderful stie visits, events and speakers throughout the conference. We hope everyone who joined us learnt lots and got some invaluable knowledge around legacy building.

21 June, 2023
Conference, Family Business Excellence Awards, Article
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Another successful Family Business Conference has come and gone. It was great to see so many attendees connecting and enjoying the wonderful site visits, events and speakers throughout the conference. We hope everyone who joined us learnt lots and got some invaluable knowledge around legacy building.

After a whirlwind few days, we are happy to relive the event and to share the highlights of our time in Adelaide. Read on to see the best insights from our keynote speakers, panel sessions, site visits, and see all the memorable moments from the many social and networking events.


For the first day, we all had the chance to get out and about and visit some prominent family run businesses in South Australia. The site visits featured a varied range of businesses from different industries, to help give those who attended some great insights behind the scenes.

The teams from: Beerenberg Farm, Drakes Supermarkets, Haigh’s Chocolate Factory, SA Mushrooms and Ahrens were extremely generous in inviting delegates to experience their operations and tour their facilities, as well as impart their wisdom on running a successful family business.

After the site visits and before the official conference kicked off, delegates gathered at Kingsford in the Barossa for the Longest Lunch and the Emerging Generation Longest Lunch to get to know each other and hear more about what the Family Business Conference 2023 had in store.

The Longest Lunch and the Emerging Generation Longest Lunch:



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Site Visits:

Beerenberg Farm

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SA Mushrooms

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Drakes Supermarkets

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Haigh’s Chocolate Factory

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Thursday saw the official kick-off of The Family Business Conference 2023. The day started with the B2B Speed Networking Breakfast before the official opening, featuring Mickey Kumatpi Marrutya O'Brien initiating the Welcome to Country ceremony. 

We were then treated to some fantastic speakers, looking at many different aspects of legacy building from some hugely experienced and knowledgeable people from all different types of family owned business.

Keynote: Shaping Hill-Smith Family Estates for Future Generations 

Robert Hill-Smith Robert Hill-Smith, Hill-Smith Family Estates

Facilitated by Susan Hawkins, ANZ Private


As a fifth-generation descendant of Samiel Smith, who founded Yalumba in 1849, Robert Hill-Smith did not need to find an industry to build his career. Born at Yalumba, the world of wine was in his blood before he became aware of it. In this fireside chat, Robert spoke of the history of the family and how he developed an awareness of Legacy and the ownership structure under his leadership. He shared he managed the change in the family and the thought process behind the name change to position the business for future generations, which was to call the company after themselves "Hill Smith Family Estates". 

From a Family Business to a Family Brand

Jaid Hulsbosch and Carolyn Pitt, Hulsbosch


Independently owned branding and design agency Hulsbosch has not only worked with and created some of Australia's most recognisable brands, including Woolworths, Qantas, Eftpos, and Virgin Australia, to name a few, but as a family business, they understand that leveraging family ownership is a unique opportunity presented to family businesses when formulating their branding strategy. 

Sustaining both Family and Business Legacy

Sarah Anthony, Heyne's Wholesale Nursery, Stuart Gerring, Parks Towing Facilitated by John-Paul Drake, Drakes Supermarkets


John-Paul Drake facilitated an insightful discussion with a panel of fellow next-generation family business members. They share insights about their challenges, what motivates them to continue to build on that value through future generations, as well as their perspectives on how they can continue to honour the Legacy that has been created.

Sarah Anthony expressed her motivation to "Make the previous generations proud”. Stuart added, "Ownership comes with responsibility, and you, like Sarah, have to have pride in what you do". John-Paul Drake summarised "As a business we always talk in generations, not in years.".

The Pursuit of Legacy

Paul Crawford, Miles Crawford, CMV Group Facilitated by Brad Scott, EWM Group 


Brad Scott interviewed the Crawfords about the Legacy of CMV Group.

During this session, they discussed families' various options as they look to protect and pass on one of their greatest assets – Legacy. The discussion included Philanthropy, Family governance techniques, preparing the next generation and education as a vital tool in this pursuit.

Key takeaways – It is most important to leave the business in a better position than you came into it. Ensure you leave it more straightforward and something for the next generation to make their own and contribute. 

  1. Watch what you say – words you use can't be unsaid.
  2. Take time for transition – preparing the next-gen, it’s essential to all to have a growth mindset.
  3. Have fun. Ensure you're giving back to the community – through philanthropy and (CMV Foundation).

5 top values for businesses:

  1. Safety first
  2. Do the right thing
  3. Can-do attitude
  4. Mutual Respect
  5. Ask the questions

Intellectual Property: Protecting Your Family Business Legacy

Ross Doonan, DECO Australia, Katie Pote, Cowell Clarke Commercial Lawyers 

Whilst succession planning plays a significant role in securing the future of family businesses, protecting their intellectual property can often be just as important, yet it is regularly overlooked. Ross Doonan and Katie Pote discussed the success of a business as it grows, how the brand identity grows with it and why it's essential to protect the brand elements that customers and businesses associate with your business. 

The Kelly Story: Family Business to Business Family

Jo and Shane Kelly, Kelly Engineering

Facilitated by Dr Chris Graves, University of Adelaide Business School

Second-generation husband and wife, Shane and Jo Kelly from Kelly Engineering discussed their approaches to innovation and the growth process and the prevalent challenges within the family regarding differences and comfort levels around risk. They also shared the benefits of bringing into the family-run operation, non-family managers as part of the succession process.

Joining the Family Company Board - Should I be Worried?

Yvette Gray, Actron Air, Alinta Wilson GAICD, Woppitt Bloodstock Facilitated by Robert Powell, Family Boards 


Robert from Family Boards spoke to Yvette and Alinta about what they considered when they joined their family business boards.

A typical rite of passage for family members often includes joining the board of directors of their family company. This might include those who have only ever worked in operational roles in the family business, without professional directors' experience or learned skills, and without an understanding of the fiduciary obligations and legal responsibilities, they are assuming.

Key takeaway - It is far more critical for board members to align and understand the business culture, values, financial literacy, and belief in the Family Business's legacy than having skills, experience, and personality alone.

Keynote: An Enterprising Family in the 21st Century - How the Legacy has helped the Family & Business be more Resilient

Arnaud de Coninck, Trusted Family 

Solvay has been adapting to an ever-changing World for over a Century and a half. It had to reinvent itself many times, continuously building on a strong heritage of social responsibility, technical excellence and a family character. Sixth-generation family shareholder Arnaud de Coninck shared the unique evolution of the company and also discussed how the family business has sustained its longevity by being prepared to evolve and innovate.

The Challenges of Legacy

Natalie Grace (nee-Faber Castell), Count Andreas von Faber-Castell Facilitated by Dr Donella Caspersz, University of Western Australia

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Dealing with the loss of the family patriarch is difficult enough, but dealing with the unexpected loss of the owning patriarch in a large family business adds extra complexity, especially for the business decisions that arise during – and after – such a significant, emotional event. This session explored the challenges faced by global brand, Faber- Castell to maintain the family business legacy following the tragic loss of 8th generation Count Anton Wolfgang Graf von Faber-Castell in 2016.

Keynote: Let Your Light Shine

Scott Hicks, Kerry Heysen AM, Scott Heysen, Kino Films Group of Companies, Jett Heysen-Hicks, MindChamps

Facilitated by Peter Goers OAM, ABC Radio Adelaide 

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Storytelling is one of the most significant ways for humans to experience connection, and in a family business, no two stories are the same, making family legacies unique and captivating. Scott, Kerry, Scotty and Jet took us through the power of storytelling to inspire in life and business, remind us that we are all connected to something greater than ourselves. 

After a day packed full of learnings and inspiration, Thursday evening brought one of the biggest nights of the year within the family business community with the Family Business Awards Dinner. 

It was a fantastic evening of fun, food, dancing and most importantly, recognising those who have made outstanding contributions over the year.

This year’s winners were:

Family Business Excellence Awards

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Small Business Category: Rochele Painting

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Medium Business Category: SSS Strawberries 

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Large Business Category: A.H. Beard

Category Awards

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Emerging Generation Achiever Award: Rachel Beard, A.H. Beard

Leading Women in Family Business Award: Penni Donato, Allin Towbars

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Accredited Advisor Award recipient: Martin Tobin, Kin in the Game 

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Sustainable Development in Family Business Award: A.H. Beard

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Distinguished Family Business of the Year Award: SSS Strawberries


The conference's final day began with the Women in Family Business Breakfast, with contributions from Karen Fistonich, Fistonich Family Wineries, Bec Hardy, Bec Hardy Wines, Corrina Wright, Oliver's Taranga Vineyards

Facilitated by Lea Boyce, BOYCE Family Office, this enjoyable event was a great insight into the unique and dynamic challenges faced by women in business.

Key takeaways:

- It's never too early to start

- Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without

- Call sh%t out!

Attendees were then treated to more excellent talks from a diverse and engaging range of speakers, who again imparted their expertise to everyone, for another inspiring day…

Keynote: How Identity is Changing the Face of Family (Enterprises)

Natalie McVeigh, EisnerAmper 


Natalie led the packed crowd through the changes to family units in modern family businesses and how they can affect each stage of a business’s lifecycle.

Key Takeaway- "Our desire to belong outweighs our desire for safety".

Seven Steps to a Remarkable Workplace 

Mandy Johnson, Founder/CEO, The People & Culture Accelerator Program 


With massive labour and skills shortages, technological advances, and generational change, it is not uncommon for family business workplaces to change more rapidly than the underlying business principles and practices which support them. Finding and keeping good people is, more essential than ever, no matter the organisation or the industry: we're now all in the 'people' business. This thought-provoking presentation explored innovative ways to navigate this rapidly changing world effectively.

Mandy spoke about recruitment and finding the right people for your business growth, looking at your job adverts and how you speak about your business—finding the best way to catch the biggest fish or as she calls it "Catching a barramundi".

Key Takeaway - Build a team that can help you continue to build a legacy.

Digital Business Invigoration by the Younger Generation

 David King, Rachel Turner, Annabelle King, Sticky

 Facilitated by Kirsten Taylor-Martin, Grant Thornton 


In this session, we heard from David, Rachel and Annabelle about how the two generations communicated during the covid crisis and, as exciting as the sales results were, what new challenges they brought with them. They also discussed how they manage dinner table conversations when Annabelle's sister is not involved in the company and how their business model has changed because of their pandemic pivot to 'Tik Tok'.

David said "The next generation look through the lens with a different perspective… We need to harness this as our competitive advantage. Some people come into your world, and they can be like family"

Annabelle "It’s not because tik tok is really cool that we are on the platform, it was because as a family business you do things to help your family and business – I just saw an opportunity".

The Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of Family Councils

Lydia Blakemore, Emily Hammon, Hammons Holdings 


We heard of the importance of ‘hat wearing’ and being able to switch between the many hats required when a person is a member of the family (mother, daughter, sister, aunt etc) as well as a member of the family council. We were left with no doubt that a family council benefits significantly by having a professional facilitator to run proceedings and including a professional accredited advisor as part of the council. Importantly, family council meetings should not take place at the dinner table of a family member, but rather should be held at a neutral location, and it's essential for family members to check in on each other pre and post-meeting to gain an understanding of emotional states that could impact a meeting or familial relations.

"Faraway and Beyond": Ensuring a Family Legacy 

Nathan Wessling, Jane McBride, Nick McBride, AJ & PA McBride Facilitated by Dr Jill Thomas, University of Adelaide Business School 

Celebrating over 100 years in business and into its 6th generation, there are very few family members currently working in the business, but all 130 shareholders of the AJ and PA McBride company are descendants of Albert McBride. During this session we heard from the family as they discussed how a strategic focus has contributed to the ongoing sustainability and longevity of the family business.

Adapting to Tough Customers

Jean-Yves Heude, Chessmate Consulting, Anthony Paech, Beerenberg, Ennio Mercuri, Ennio International

Facilitated by Bevan Roberts, Succession Plus 

We heard from Jean Yves about negotiating with supermarkets. When a key client aggressively negotiates pricing, family businesses often feel powerless and feel like they are facing a dilemma. They can't afford to lose the business, but they can't afford to satisfy the buyer's request either. Confrontation will poison the water, but compromise will destroy their margin. We heard how Beerenberg has learnt the art of negotiation through mentoring.

Key takeaway - We are moving away from the win-win and toward a power model in negotiations with large markets.

Unpacking the Keys to Successful Sibling Relationships in a Business Family

Zoe Detmold, Sascha Detmold-Cox, Pippa Detmold, Detmold Group Facilitated by Lowen Partridge, Peartree Brand Strategy 


We heard Lowen interview Detmold Sisters, Sascha, Zoe and Pippa in an interview never seen before.

Key takeaway – Each sibling is best placed to run separate divisions in the business rather than have to work with each other directly. They also all report to their father and are on very different salaries, which are justified depending on experience, level and contribution. All are on a different journey professionally and as parents. They also respect each other's time and ensure they catch up on a personal level. Arguments are natural, but having the ability to approach them with empathy is important.

Communicate clearly and regularly. Communication is key to any successful relationship, but it's even more important between siblings who run a business together.

"You may know your siblings well as people, but you have to make sure no one is left guessing about what's going on in your business".

Keynote: How to Think Like a Futurist 

Dr Ben Hamer, Global Future of Work Expert 


Disruption is the new normal. We need to be able to anticipate and respond to change, irrespective of our role in the organisation. We need to learn the art and practice of future thinking. We heard from one of Australia's leading (and few accredited) futurists on the mindset and methodology so that you too, can think like a Futurist and design your preferred future.

Key takeaway – Everything is rapidly moving; our workforces as we know them today, will look very different in a matter of years, with several jobs not even known yet. All businesses need to invest more in AI and cyber security.  

Three things to look at when future thinking - Foresight, Insight, Action

Final Dinner

Friday night's final dinner was a great time for us to all come together and reflect on a great experience that was The Family Business Conference 2023, celebrating the successes of the last year and looking forward to the next 12 months. It was the perfect opportunity for everyone to share their own personal highlights and connect with those in the community that they had met during the conference. After such a great time, we can’t wait to see you all in Cairns for the Family Business Conference 2024!

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