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Family firms are the backbone of economies the world over and the UK is no exception. With more than 5 million family firms in the UK employing over 14 million people, they are the engine room of communities across the country.


Family businesses are small businesses

Undoubtedly there are many small family businesses across the UK and their contribution to the economy is immense. However, not all family businesses are small and in recent years there has been growing recognition of the sector and the benefits they bring to Britain. Take the likes of Wates, one of the largest UK building and construction companies, not to mention Arnold Clark, David Nieper, Weston’s Cider, Baxters, Walkers Shortbread, Shepherd Neame, Arco and GAP Group, all of whom are large businesses and it is clear that the size assumption is a mistake.


Family businesses are not household names

Quite the contrary! Family firms are household names, although many will not have been appreciated for their family heritage and connections.  Some may not even be known as family firms either.   Examples from the global arena include include LEGO, SC Johnson, Ford, Walmart, Samsung and IKEA. In the UK there are some great family firms such as The Goring Hotel, Macsween of Edinburgh, Kinloch Anderson, William Jackson Food Group, Taylors of Harrogate, Fortnum & Mason, Furniture Village, William Grant and Euro Garages. In many cases, it is not until their names are listed that people realise they are actually family businesses and appreciate that they knew the businesses all along.


Family businesses are not survivors

Whilst statistics may show that only a small proportion of family firms successfully pass to the third generation, the data is now being challenged, and in reality, there are plenty of great examples of family firms that date centuries. These firms represent great British family business successes where the businesses have continued to innovate and develop entrepreneurially over time to ensure that they remain relevant today.


RJ Balson & Sons, the butcher from Bridport is the oldest family firm in the UK dating back to 1515 but there are others that help to dispel the  myth including James Lock & Co, the oldest hat maker (1676), C Hoare & Co, the oldest bankers (1672) and CPJ Field and Co, the oldest funeral directors (1690). Clearly, these family firms are survivors!



Family businesses are not significant employers

This is simply not the case when the likes of The Swire Group, JCB, NG Bailey, Warburtons, Wates and Shepherd Neame, Arnold Clark, Furniture Village, Arco and GAP Group are taken into account. Individually these family firms are significant local, regional and national employers and collectively family firms in the UK make up a significant workforce and need to be recognised as such.


Family firms exist the length and breadth of the UK and are the backbone of the UK economy and the bedrock of our communities.  In reality, many families control and manage significant entrepreneurial businesses within the UK, and already have plans and governance structures in place to continue to be successful for many generations to come. There are hundreds of family firms that dispel the myths that they cannot span the generations successfully and these organisations will continue to contribute not just to the UK economy but also compete at a global level.


Whilst it is true that not all family businesses are global organisations, many lead their sectors and continue to pioneer new frameworks to help them continue successfully. 


The sector deserves respect and recognition for all that it has achieved and continues to achieve day-in, day-out. 


Family firms really are the backbone of the UK economy and help put the "great" in Great Britain.

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