For many years, partly as a result of their portrayal as ‘ma and pa’ lifestyle businesses, family firms have not been recognised for the true contribution that they make to the UK economy. In the current economic climate, family firms are being looked upon much more favourably not least because of their underlying values, plans for the future, longevity and desire to succeed. The contribution they make should not be under-estimated either with significant jobs being provided, communities being supported and the fact that family firms are truly the backbone of the British economy.
So what makes working with family firms special and ‘Why do big corporates and PLC’s like doing business with private family businesses?
Paul Andrews, Founder and Managing Director or Family Business United sums it up in three areas:
1 – Leadership from the front
First and foremost, family firms tend to be headed up by someone who has the family business in their blood, and as such doing business with someone who takes personal pride and ownership in their business makes them desirable to work with.
Rather than simply doing business, family firms make it personal, traditional values such as honesty, integrity and personal service comes to the fore. No longer are you doing business with an organisation per se but a business that is owned and very often managed on a day-to-day basis by someone that cares about their business, and appreciates that delivering good, consistent customer service is key to driving the business forward. To that end, family firms provide a good relationship base with access to the key decision makers who are happy to engage with clients.
2 – A sense of history and purpose
Secondly, family firms have a history, tradition and legacy and tend to be around for the long term. Recent research done by Family Business United identified the ten oldest family firms in the UK and collectively they have been trading or over 4,200 years, no mean feat in the current climate and they have survived world wars, recessions and more besides.
Family firms tend to plan for the future and are able to adapt and evolve to ensure the business survives. As the business transcends the generations there is a desire to succeed and pass a successful organisation on to future generations, and as such this can offer customers in the corporate world more security about who they are doing business with, and assurances that the business is in it for the long term.
3 – Because it is personal
Thirdly, it is personal. Brand, name and reputation mean everything, especially when it is ‘your name above the door.’
Many family businesses have been around for generations, take the Warburtons, The Goring Hotel, Floris, JCB and Kinloch Anderson for example, and the family name is associated with everything that the business stands for. To that end, corporates know that they are dealing with a long established brand, one with values that permeate the organisation, and one with true values underpinning the work that they do rather than ‘corporate words, mission statements and meaningless charters.’
Family businesses are renowned around the world for being outward looking, in it for the long term, willing and responsive to change and sustainable and as such represent excellent business partners, many leading the way in their respective markets.
Family firms represent more than 5 million firms in the UK economy, provide 12 million jobs and make up nearly half of all mid-sized businesses in the UK (£20-500 million turnover).
Far from being small ‘lifestyle businesses’ families are behind some of Britain’s best known and loved brands and you may find that you are already working with some of them