For three decades Dave and Deirdre (Dee) Byatt worked hard on their business, Monaro Screens, not thinking much beyond building it into a successful enterprise they could one day sell to fund retirement.
When their sons came on board several years ago, it wasn’t because they intended to turn it into a multigenerational affair.
“Truth be told, we probably would have preferred to put the business up for sale at some stage, given the pressures involved in running it,” Dave says. “It’s hard work!”
As it turned out however, their son Ben was keen on the challenge and a gradual passing on of knowledge meant that as retirement grew closer, a competent new leader was emerging.
“When we realised Ben was capable of running the place virtually on his own, we consulted with our accountants and started the succession plan,” Dave says.
“As we reduced our input into the business, we found we could rely on Ben to fill that void.
“I drew the line last month and stepped out of the business. Dee will drop down to three days a week for maybe the next 18 months to two years before she retires as well.”
Ben officially took the helm last year, and Monaro Screens joined what RSM in Canberra principal Thiru Kandiah says is a growing contingent of local multigenerational family businesses as the city’s business community matures.
“The business landscape in Canberra is not dominated by large corporations. Businesses here are predominantly SMEs (small to medium enterprises) and many of them are family businesses,” she says.
“We’ve helped a lot of business owners who reach retirement age step down and pass the torch onto the next generation.”
Aside from Monaro Screens, its list of successful handovers also includes ASX-listed business Racing and Sports, which went from father Gary Crispe to son Stephen in 2021.
Increasingly common though it is, it’s not a simple case of passing the baton. Any kind of wealth exchange between generations – from property to businesses – requires a measured approach to ensure all the checks and balances are in place.
Monaro Screens had already been an RSM client for more than 20 years when the time came to make the intergenerational transition – a process that has been taking place over the past four or so years.
“It was important for Dee and me that it was done properly, as Monaro Screens was our life’s work and retirement plan,” Dave says.
“That involved in-depth discussions with RSM and their business advisor – they’ve been instrumental in this process.
“Eventually it came down to how Ben would obtain the funds to buy into the business and eventually, buy us out.”
The family met with RSM and its business advisor each fortnight so Ben could learn what went into monitoring expenditure and performance and about the compliance and tax requirements to get business and structuring advice and ultimately, ensure a fair exchange.
The process involved making referrals, compliance and tax management, issuing shares and eventually, creating a shareholders agreement so all three parties were clear about roles and responsibilities.
“Throughout the process you need a good working relationship between the clients and the various advisors involved – accountants, lawyers, bankers, business advisors – all the people who play key roles at the various phases of the business,” Thiru says.
“Yes, Dave and Deirdre are Ben’s dad and mum but in the context of a business changing hands, they’re business partners.”
As the business enters its next phase, the Monaro Screens success story continues to be widely embraced by the Canberra community.
“Family businesses resonate with the community. They’re involved in the local community, they’re invested and there’s incentive to do right by it,” Thiru says.
“The people who own family businesses are also relatable, we want to cheer them on when they succeed, hit milestones and sometimes, get passed down to the next generation.”
For more information on any business transition, visit RSM in Canberra.