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The Ongoing Importance Of Scotland’s Leading Family Firms

The top Scottish family firms were in a strong position before the onset of the global pandemic according to the latest research conducted by Family Business United, sponsored by Carbon.

The Top 100 Scottish Family Firms 2020 report that has just been published and is based on the most recent filed accounts at Companies House shows that these businesses showed record figures since the first report compiled back in 2017.

Key findings:

  • Top 100 Scottish family firms generate £22.6 billion annually
  • More than 111,000 people are employed in the Top 100 Scottish family firms
  • Top 100 Scottish family firms make a significant contribution to the national economy
  • Food & drink, property & construction and motor retail are the key family business employers
  • Good geographical spread of leading family firms but Lanarkshire, Stirlingshire, West Lothian, Mid Lothian and Banffshire account for over 77% turnover of the Top 100

The report compiled data from accounts at Companies House in line with the methodology adopted in previous years and a significant number of the accounts were as at 31 December 2019, just before the start of the impact of the pandemic.  However, the results stand for themselves and it can be seen that the Top 100 Scottish family firms contribute to make a significant contribution to the national economy in terms of income generated, jobs provided and wealth created too and that collectively these organisations were doing well prior to the challenges of the past year or so.

As Mark Christie, Partner at Carbon adds, “For years it has been appreciated that family firms are the engine room of the Scottish economy and this fourth report into the contribution made by family businesses really quantifies their significance. Family firms are important in so many ways and their growth and expertise will be vital to the economy going forward too.  We recognise that Covid-19 will have affected businesses significantly over the past year but the vast majority have remained resolute and strong, developing new and innovative ways of working where possible and continuing to make a difference in so many ways across the country.  It is important for these businesses to be supported through these tough times so that they can thrive and grow for many years to come.”

Subsequent to the reported data being filed at Companies House the pandemic hit and family firms across Scotland were not exempt the impact, although some businesses and certain sectors were affected more than others.  Many of the family firms in the Top 100 are long standing, household names that have been around for generations and they will have been through challenging times before; World Wars, the Industrial Revolution, the introduction of the digital revolution and much more, all experiences that they will have been able to draw on to rise to the challenges they have had to, and are continuing to have to face today.

We have seen resilience, innovation and new ways of working and a real entrepreneurial spirit and, hopefully, as restrictions start to ease, these businesses will continue to move forward and return to pre-pandemic trading levels.

As Paul Andrews, Founder and CEO of Family Business United explains, “Undoubtedly there will have been an impact on businesses across Scotland and the latest research from KPMG has shown that Scottish companies have been among the most impacted globally, with 80% saying the pandemic has affected revenues (11% higher than the global average).  This will likely be reflected in the results of the Top 100 family firms next year but for now we have to draw on the fact that going into the pandemic Scottish family firms were doing well and were reporting better performance than ever since this research began.”

As Kirsty Ross, KPMG’s head of family business in Scotland adds that “Scotland is home to some of the largest percentages of family firms in the world – many of them household names in the food and drink world, hospitality, agriculture and retail sectors.”

“The last few years have taken a toll due to a number of factors, not least Brexit and the pandemic but this latest KPMG research shows a constant theme from the family business leaders questioned – they understand the challenges and recognise they’ve been here before.  Generational insight and history is enabling them to look back at past challenges and learn from them.  It’s that sense of resilience that ensures they will play a pivotal role in the recovery of the economy going forward.”

Further positives can be taken from the latest research by Vistage that has shown that UK and Ireland business confidence is reaching new levels with 74% of business leaders expecting the overall economic conditions across the country to improve in the next 12 months.

As Vistage Managing Director Geoff Lawrence explains, “The rapid rollout of the vaccine across the country has potentially led to business confidence hitting its highest levels. Our latest survey suggests that SMEs in Scotland are due for a significant rebound as we enter the final stages of the current lockdown. Additionally, government support from furlough to business rates measures have had the intended effect of helping businesses regain some stability in the current situation. We anticipate that although there is a long way to go before businesses can recover to pre-crisis levels, there is every indication that Scottish businesses can come back stronger and better.”

“SME leaders need to ensure they have revisited and revised their strategy and business models to exploit the expected growth in customer demand as well as to steal a march on their competitors. The marketplace has changed, and so must their business.”

As Paul adds, “The positive outlook from the Vistage survey is encouraging and is in line with our very own recent pulse survey that shows more than 75% of family business owners are more positive about the outlook than they were at this time last year.  As restrictions ease, and businesses are able to open up further, we hope that this positivity will lead to increasing performance too.”

“There will be ‘bumps’ along the way but we have seen a real sense of community develop over the past year or so with family business leaders sharing insights, ways of working and coming together to help each other and work their way through the different challenges along the way.  There have also been many significant projects to support local communities by family firms across Scotland, from manufacturing PPE and hand sanitiser to supporting food banks, the health and wellbeing of their staff and other charitable initiatives too.  It is this spirit of community and positive approach to making a difference that is part of the underlying fabric of family firms and quite simply in their DNA,” continues Paul.

As Mark concludes, “Family businesses have always been an integral part of the Scottish economy and will be key contributors to its recovery.  With the Top 100 family firms in Scotland employing well over 100,000 people and generating £22 billion in turnover, it is so important that we support and promote them during these tough times.  Family firms will continue to make a significant impact going forward, both to the economy and our day to day lives.”


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