While the in­flu­ence of Don­ald Trump’s chil­dren in the White House has gar­nered mixed re­ac­tions, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of the fam­ily busi­ness can reap its own re­wards, says Rita de Brún

Irish Examiner - - Front Page -

While the in­flu­ence of Don­ald Trump’s chil­dren in the White House has gar­nered mixed re­ac­tion, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of the fam­ily busi­ness can reap its own re­wards.

Once a fam­ily busi­ness head, al­ways a fam­ily busi­ness head. Or so it seems from a cur­sory glance at Don­ald Trump.

While he swapped his throne at Trump Tower for the pres­i­den­tial perch in the White House, he’s con­tin­ued to keep his fam­ily en­tourage in tow.

His daugh­ter Ivanka and son-in­law Jared Kush­ner are widely per­ceived as be­ing pos­i­tive in­flu­encers Ivanka ig­nites a glim­mer of hope in those re­coil­ing from the some­times dog­matic rants and peace desta­bi­liz­ing texts that is­sue in the name of her fa­ther.

Trump’s ini­tial weak re­sponse to a re­cent white supremacy con­tro­versy caused out­rage.

Ivanka con­demned the sick­en­ing move­ment in ap­pro­pri­ate terms. In that way, she did her­self proud and went some way to­wards wip­ing shame from the Trump fam­ily name.

Along with her for­mal ad­viser role she also fills an Amer­i­can roy­alty style role in Wash­ing­ton.

She has soothed Chi­nese ten­sions and al­legedly used her daugh­terly in­flu­ence to per­suade her fa­ther of the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing LGBT rights.

For many fam­ily busi­nesses in­ner power strug­gles are an is­sue.

“It’s of­ten stated that the first gen­er­a­tion does all the work, the sec­ond has an air of en­ti­tle­ment and the third loses the busi­ness,” says clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Elaine Fitzger­ald.

“To try to en­sure that that doesn’t hap­pen, sound val­ues have to be given to the gen­er­a­tions com­ing up. It should be made clear to them that no­body is en­ti­tled to any­thing; that we all have to work for every­thing we get” As for the usual con­se­quences of join­ing a fam­ily busi­nesses out of a sense of duty and loy­alty she says: “If it’s done for sen­ti­men­tal or nos­tal­gic rea­sons, or so as to avoid dis­ap­point­ing the ex­pec­ta­tions of par­ents, that’s usu­ally a bad thing.

“Fear of change is an­other bad rea­son. That can set in when a fam­ily busi­ness is handed to some­one on a plate, and they get to think­ing that it’s all they know; that it would be fright­en­ing to try some­thing else. The best rea­son to get in­volved is be­cause your heart is fully in it.” She’s right, not least be­cause of the sticky sit­u­a­tions that some­times en­sue: “The roles of­fered or re­jected can cause sib­ling up­set, as can one fam­ily mem­ber get­ting more ben­e­fits for do­ing less work in the busi­ness than oth­ers.

“It can take a lot of courage for the chil­dren of dom­i­nant per­son­al­i­ties who want them in the busi­ness they founded, to choose a dif­fer­ent path.” While none of these are is­sues with which Tom Mur­phy of Tom Mur­phy Menswear on Cork’s Pa­trick Street had to bat­tle, his re­ply when asked whether there was a pre­sump­tion when he was grow­ing up that he’d work in the busi­ness his grand­fa­ther es­tab­lished in 1938, will strike a chord with many: “As a child, hints were dropped and I felt a sub­tle pres­sure to con­tinue on the line.

“Back then, if I felt my par­ents thought I wasn’t suf­fi­ciently keen, I’d feel slightly guilty.” After clock­ing up 21 years in the busi­ness, he need feel no guilt on that score to­day and while he works hap­pily while shoul­der-to-shoul­der with his brother and fa­ther, he says that on the oc­ca­sion when their vi­sions dif­fer, feel­ings can run strong: “That can hap­pen as we all feel so pas­sion­ately about the busi­ness.”

His in­nate wis­dom when it comes to op­er­at­ing as part of a team clearly pays div­i­dends: “There was a time when I’d have voiced my opin­ions at work in a stronger way than I do to­day.

“As I got older (he’s 42) I mel­lowed and learned that ap­proach wasn’t worth the strug­gle. These days I soften my po­si­tion by say­ing my piece, leav­ing it at that and let­ting things work them­selves out.” Keep­ing a fam­ily busi­ness afloat is not an easy task. Typ­i­cally just 30 per cent sur­vive into the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion, 10-15 per cent into third and 3-5 per cent into the fourth.

Nev­er­the­less, JJ O’Connell, na­tional director of Fam­ily Busi­ness Ire­land sees those sta­tis­tics in a pos­i­tive light: “Pub­licly traded com­pa­nies tend to last for 15 years, which is less than one gen­er­a­tion. In that con­text, the fam­ily busi­ness model seems pretty en­dur­ing,” he says.

Facts pub­lished in a PwC’s Ir­ish Fam­ily Busi­ness Sur­vey sup­port his view­point, with 71 per cent of those polled ex­pe­ri­enc­ing growth and 91 per cent ex­pect­ing sales in­creases over the next five years.

Suc­ces­sion plan­ning was an area with room for im­prove­ment, with just 51 per cent of those polled hav­ing such a plan in place. Two who have ad­dressed this is­sue in their fam­ily busi­nesses full-on are mother and daugh­ter Vic­to­ria and Johnna Mur­phy.

For years, the Vic­to­ria Mur­phy & Daugh­ter word­ing etched out­side the Kin­sale based auc­tion­eer­ing com­pany sent out a mes­sage of pride that not one gen­er­a­tion of this fam­ily but two have served that com­mu­nity well.

De­scrib­ing their work­ing re­la­tion­ship, Vic­to­ria says: “My daugh­ter Jo­hanna and I worked to­gether for a time, only to find that with us, there were too many chiefs and no In­di­ans at all, so I handed over the Cobh of­fice to her and run the Kin­sale of­fice my­self.” Is it true she once fired then re­hired Jo­hanna?

“She was twenty-some­thing and telling me, her mother, what to do,” re­calls Vic­to­ria, laugh­ing. “She wanted over­time for work­ing Satur­days.” She’s full of praise for Jo­hanna and for the daugh­ter she de­light­fully refers to as the Rachel Sarah Mur­phy.

Did Rachel, who’s prob­a­bly best known for her role as Jo Fa­hey in Fair City, ever work for her? “Never. Be­ing into the arts, I think she’d give prop­erty away for noth­ing if she could, so it would have been a dis­as­ter.” As for Jo­hanna she says: “I al­ways knew she’d be a very good sales woman and businesswoman and that she’d take to this busi­ness like a duck to wa­ter and she has. Her busi­ness is fly­ing, as is Rachel’s.” Jo­hanna is equally ex­u­ber­ant in her praise of her mother: “There was a time when she had an an­tiques busi­ness. She’d drive a van while wear­ing a mink coat. She was never afraid to get her hands dirty. She’s fan­tas­tic and wise. We talk busi­ness ev­ery day.”

Although her young­sters are just 16, 12 and 9, the sign above Jo­hanna’s busi­ness has read Jo­hanna Mur­phy & Sons for three or four years now. Does she think any of them will fol­low her into the busi­ness? “Some of them might. When my el­dest was a baby, he came to ev­ery view­ing with me.” This rev­e­la­tion echoes re­mem­brances of her own child­hood: “When I was a child, it seemed to me that my mother was al­ways do­ing up prop­er­ties. I re­mem­ber crawl­ing around the floors of ram­bling old houses while ac­com­pa­ny­ing her at her work.”

The cir­cle is com­plete. It sounds like his­tory might bere­peat­ing it­self.

Rachel Sarah Mur­phy and Jo­hanna Mur­phy with their mother Vic­to­ria Mur­phy at their Kin­sale-based auc­tion­eer­ing firm and right, Tom Mur­phy of Tom Mur­phy Menswear, Pa­trick’s Street, Cork.

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