Since The Family Business Office was established in 2017, the team has been tirelessly at work for the benefit of family-run businesses on the islands. As a result, it has achieved several significant milestones, including hitting the 300-member mark earlier this year.

Reflecting on this, among several other highlights in recent months, Regulator Dr Joseph Gerada explains its significance, asserting that, with the office not having been around for long, many still confuse the Family Business Office with a family office, which focuses on investments and diversification.

“We’ve seen registrations on a yearly basis, but not to the extent we had expected. Considering that more than 70 per cent of SMEs in Malta are family-owned, it took a lot of promotion,” he maintains, affirming “our office is a regulatory government entity. Hitting the 300-member mark shows that our message is coming across, even if slowly. More family businesses are realizing the potential in registering and applying for incentives, bringing added value to their membership.”

Among its recent achievements, the Family Business Office hosted the first Transeo Winter Summit last year – the reference event in Europe dedicated to transfers and acquisitions of SMEs. Describing it as a great success, Dr Gerada explains, “we had a good turnout, with delegates from abroad and local family businesses getting involved. It was also nice to meet new members of the Family Business Office and to see the motivation in networking and learning from each other.”

Delving into some of the takeaways of the summit, he notes, “in Malta, family businesses often have to rely on the big four firms for acquisitions or selling, which isn’t always feasible for smaller businesses. The summit highlighted the need for more accessible resources.”

Turning his attention to the coming months, the Regulator says, the FBO is planning to follow up on last year’s events, including hosting an event in Gozo. “This event will focus on family businesses and the training available for their management and governance structures. We’re also working on making our family business conference an annual event, discussing various issues and sharing valuable knowledge.”

There’s also the launch of the new Family Business Grant scheme, which provides financial assistance for succession planning. “We completed the period for the Family Business Grant, which ran for three years and saw a high demand, particularly in its final weeks. Most incentives have been renewed, with the Family Business Grant Scheme launching soon. This will help businesses with succession planning and governance, ensuring continuity,” he says.

“Family businesses can get aid in acquiring professional services for creating a robust succession plan, including potentially rethinking governance structures. The scheme is open to all registered family businesses, ensuring they can get the assistance needed to pass on their business to the next generation smoothly,” Dr Gerada maintains, adding that the FBO actively encourages family businesses to deal with any issues which may be stopping them from planning for succession.

“The grant is not just providing assistance for those who require consultants, but is also aimed at those businesses who have issues between family members, which are stopping them from passing on the business. This incentive can also be used to get mediation services,” he adds, admitting that locally, there currently aren’t many mediators specialising in family business dispute resolution – though this is something the FBO also aims to tackle. “To address this, we’ve started discussions with the Mediation Centre and the University of Malta to create a specialised course. This will equip mediators with the necessary knowledge to assist family businesses effectively,” he says.

Apart from this, the Office also conducted a follow-up survey to see trends and changes in family businesses, with very positive feedback from the community. The results, the Regulator reveals, are set to be presented later this week, during an event held at The Malta Chamber on 23rd May. Interested parties can register to attend here.

And that’s not all they’ve got planned. Having renewed the Family Business Office’s membership with Transeo and the European Family Business Organisation, Dr Gerada explains that such memberships allow the FBO to participate in international events, learn from other countries, and bring back knowledge to assist our local family businesses. To this end, the Regulator will also be attending the Transeo Summit in Belgium and the European Family Business Conference in Rome later this year.

Concluding our chat with his thoughts on how the culture and trends in family businesses in Malta are developing, Dr Gerada believes there’s been a noticeable improvement in awareness. “Family businesses are now more conscious of the unique challenges they face and are seeking advice and assistance. However, there’s still much to do. We need to push the importance of training and consultancy, as these are crucial investments for the future of family businesses.”

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