We should learn from Italian family businesses

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A few weeks ago I was in Italy with Lorna to sort out a few things. There is something about Italy that I just can’t get enough of, the atmosphere and community really is just something else.

Lorna and I have recently bought a new property and we’ve hired the most wonderful Italian architect to help us renovate it. We travelled to Italy to meet him and he took us to a variety of different suppliers of everything from kitchen tiles to bathroom sinks. I largely leave the aesthetics of things to Lorna, as she seems to have an eye for interior design, but I thoroughly enjoyed getting a feel for different Italian trades

One thing that became apparent to me was the structure of the local businesses, family run businesses seem to be the bedrock of society. Italy is characterised by a considerable presence of small, medium, and large sized family businesses. Our Italian architect works for his family firm with his siblings as his father and his father’s father had done so before. This sense of continuity really strengthens the business in my opinion.

Italian inheritance law is structured in such a way that works in the favour of the closest family members limiting the threat of testators. This means that assets can be passed down to your children regardless of gender unlike the ridiculous practice of primogeniture which we have in the UK.

I read in the paper recently about a family who are struggling over their father’s assets since his death. The Thane of Cawdor had 5 children and yet all his assets and his title have been passed to his eldest son, leaving the others with nothing. It seems disgraceful to me that although we are constantly fighting for gender equality around the world primogeniture is still the law of the land for the aristocracy in Britain. Three of the Thane of Cawdor daughters are now suing their brother and claiming that because their father spent his last decades in his villa in Italy, his estate should be subject to Italian law, which would mean they would be eligible for inheritance.

Gone are the days of Downton Abbey, I think that it’s ridiculous to treat sons and daughters differently when it comes to inheritance. It seems to me that in Italy because both sons and daughters are in line for inheriting the family business a sense of pride and passion are added which really seems to work for them out there.