Kate Carnell joins Family Business Australia as patron

Kate Carnell

Former Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell.

Former small business ombudsman Kate Carnell will champion family-owned Australian businesses in her new role as patron of Family Business Australia (FBA).

Carnell’s two-year appointment to the role was announced on Thursday, and comes nine months after she finished her five-year term as the inaugural Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.

In recent months, she has also joined the board of disability and aged care focused healthtech company Mable and is an ambassador for NSW Small Business Month, which will take place in March 2022.

Speaking to SmartCompany, Carnell says the challenge of succession planning will remain front and centre for many operators in the sector as they head into 2022, with the pandemic having placed pressure on both businesses and families.

“The challenge for family businesses is always about succession planning and about how you manage competing family interests while running a successful business,” she says.

“A very large number have gone through tough times and issues can arise with families and how you get the most out of the business.”

It is often the case that multiple family members work within the same business, and Carnell says this meant that during the pandemic those families had limited capacity to earn income from other places.

At the same time, as members of the Baby Boomer generation start thinking about retirement, those businesses owners are thinking about how to plan for a transition in ownership.

“How you pass a business on to the next generation is a real challenge and you can’t do it at the last minute, you’ve got to plan it,” says Carnell. 

Around 70% of all Australian businesses are estimated to be family-owned and the sector employs around 50% of the Australian workforce.

Carnell is FBA’s first patron and the organisation said her role will be to “lend credibility and support” to the peak body and the work it does to support the sector.

Family Business Australia chairman Mark Kagan said Carnell’s experience as ombudsman, as well as her previous roles, including as chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, means she has a “deep understanding of the issues facing the family business sector and is well-placed to be the figurehead of our organisation”.

“Kate will work with FBA to highlight the role that family businesses play in supporting the Australian economy and our society, and we hope her influence will help FBA to continue to be the peak body that represents this vast business sector,” he said in a statement.

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