• “A charter builds the foundation for a well-functioning family business"

“A charter builds the foundation for a well-functioning family business"

24 May 2022

BDO guides Lighthouse Invest to the next generation


Doing business has been in De Jonckheere’s family for four generations. What started in the 1930’s as a small grocery shop has in 2022 grown out to a flourishing real estate and hospitality business on the coastline of Nieuwpoort-Bad. Today, thiefamily business is on the threshold of a new phase in its long history. The next generation of directors is ready to take over the wheel. BDO helps to steer this transition in the right direction with a family charter.

Four generations of business spirit

Today, the patrimony of Lighthouse Invest includes two restaurants on the seafront in Nieuwpoort-Bad, a hotel and on top of that a new project, The CORNR Hotel. With this new project, a four star hotel will rise on the ground where Koen De Jonckheere's great-grandmother started her grocery shop Chez Marthe in the early 1930s. Koen is the fourth generation and current financial director. “The shop later became a hotel that I often visited as a child when my uncle ran it. Although doing business did excite me, it was never my goal to get into the family business.”

Lighthouse Invest has relied on BDO for its fiscal and accounting services for many years. But as is the case for many family businesses, the management and board organisation became more complex generation after generation. Thanks to the 'Masterclass NextGen - Ready for a role in the family business?' of BDO Partner Jan Oosterlinck, the De Jonckheere family gained a better insight in how the different parties and actors within a family business can be structured. Not a luxury for Lighthouse Invest. From a family business with one director, the company evolved over the past decades to a structure with multiple directors and shareholders. Getting the views in line and keeping them there was not as easy as it used to be, but necessary nevertheless. 

The Master Class was a valuable eye-opener for Koen personally: “Topics such as the psychology of doing business with family members or the complex tax and legal systems were clearly mapped out.” The testimonials and best practices of other family businesses that faced a similar generational change were equally as inspiring and insightful.

"The BDO 'Masterclass NextGen' brought new insights and hands-on information." - Koen De Jonckheere, financial manager Lighthouse Invest

Family charter and regular knowledge sharing

For family businesses, it is important to find a good balance between active shareholders, who are closely involved in the business, and passive shareholders. Each shareholder has their own values, with their own rights and obligations. In order to better structure this relationship within the family and the general operation of the business, Lighthouse Invest started a process to develop a family charter. BDO took on the role of neutral third party to independently analyse the situation and to mediate between the different actors within the family with their specific interests. A role that was highly appreciated in discussions around sensitive, often personal issues. 

In addition, the hand-over of knowledge to the next generation can be better structured and more aimed at the future. “The aim is that only the topics on the agenda of the shareholders’ meetings are dealt with,” Koen explains. “Today, these meetings are still too cluttered with by individual, unrelated topics.” In time, a more stable and regular follow-up system must be developed. “What is self-evident about the business for me is often not so evident for the younger generation,” says Yves De Jonckheere, Koen's uncle who is passing on the director’s torch.

"BDO's neutral role was particularly valuable in discussions around sensitive, often personal issues." - Koen De Jonckheere, financial manager Lighthouse Invest

Lighthouse Invest’s ambitions and BDO’s role

In the long term, Lighthouse Invest is aiming at a solid growth of its hospitality and real estate activities. Especially in the real estate field, there is a need for more diversity, both in terms of geographical spread and in types of projects. For the operation and structuring within the family business, Koen hopes “that when the family charter is finalised, agreements will be better formalised and more structure will be built into the operation, so that the shareholders understand unequivocally what the objectives are and what is expected of them.”

Koen and Yves are full of praise about the cooperation with BDO: “The multidisciplinary tailor-made work combined with the expertise and the personal, pragmatic approach are great assets. They have only strengthened our choice for BDO.” The opening of the new CORNR Hotel is planned for June 2022. It will become a four-star hotel in a modern building with all facilities, with the aim to offer excellent service and customer friendliness so that guests can enjoy their stay carefree.

Are you looking for tailor-made advice for the transition of your family business? 

In need of an independent, neutral third party? Then get in touch with BDO Partner Jan Oosterlinck.