Connecting values to business at the DCU 2019 Annual Family Business Conference

The atmosphere that accompanied the end of Dublin City University's 2019 Annual Family Business Conference had a sense of unified energy as attendees slowly left the John Hand Hall , chatting and exchanging feedback on the morning which brought them all together at DCU All Hallows Campus. On Tuesday 30 April, over 120 family business owners, members of the press, public and the wider business community attended 'Family Business Values – how they translate into business value', hosted by DCU National Centre for Family Business.

Professor Brian Mac Craith, DCU President, gave the opening address of the conference. He focussed on the guiding principles and values that drive DCU forward, and "provide us with a critical compass for our growth and trajectory".
Two key themes which connected each of the four speakers were centred around the ways in which business and family values can be embedded and practised within company culture, and how truly living a set of values can elevate family business governance and management through challenging times.

Caroline Keeling, CEO of Keelings, retraced her history in the fresh fruit business and described the "success factor" of the ideal leader as someone who is aligned to the values of both the business and the family. She emphasised the changing nature of values over time and that for Keelings, sustainability would be a much stronger focus over the next 15 years.

Certainly the speaker with the longest journey to the conference was Grant Dennis. As Chairman and MD of the Dennis Family Group – who are at the forefront of property development in Australia – Grant went into detail about the evolution of the company's governance structures, which ultimately led to greater transparency, more power in the hands of shareholders, and the transcription of their values on the boardroom wall.

The important roles of heritage, community and place were made very clear in the history of Sheridan's Cheesemongers. More than just food, their business model is built on connecting people to a culture and set of values. Kevin Sherdian, Co-founder and MD, detailed how their values are rooted in trust and long-term planning through community initiatives and building relationships with other cheese making families.

The final speaker of the morning, a member of the Musgrave family took to the stage and spoke about their experiences. Chris Musgrave, Vice Chairman of Musgrave Group, spoke about tough times and the challenges that were overcome by embracing their values and linking them to good management. They created a mission statement, engaged a facilitator to help them clearly articulate their values, introduced an employee profit sharing scheme, and are bringing distant family closer to the company through next gen education.

The voice which tied the event together with rousing enthusiasm was that of entrepreneur and TV Dragon, Gavin Duffy. Duffy led the panel discussion into more detailed areas of their business experience, and we saw Orla Cafferty, Director of Daatascan Document Services join our speakers on stage, as well as John Dillon, Partner at PwC; Catherine Moroney, Head of Business Banking at AIB; and Shaun O'Shea, Partner at Beauchamps.

The National Centre for Family Business is fuelled by research, and it was Dr Eric Clinton, Director of the Centre, who drew the connections between the lived experiences of family business owners and theory driven research. Crucially, if we want to instil values across time, we need to fully engage with the next generation to cultivate and share this knowledge.

Family Business Values was the culmination of months of effort from the National Centre for Family Business team. A special thank you to Carmel Sheils, Centre Manager, and Yvonne Kiely, Research Assistant, for their hard work in putting this event together. 


Pictured left-right: Kevin Sheridan, Chris Musgrave, Catherine Moroney, Orla Cafferty, John Dillon, Gavin Duffy, Grant Dennis, Shaun O'Shea, Eric Clinton