Building a lasting legacy – PwC’s latest family business survey findings

Article Date | 17 April, 2019

Guest Blog By Hannah Harris, UK Family Business Leader at PwC

Published Date: 17-April-2019


Every two years PwC gathers the views of family business across the globe for our Family Business survey and this year, our ninth edition- Building a lasting legacy, provided some interesting insight from the respondents based in the UK. Family businesses provide a unique contribution to our economy and according to the Institute of Family Business, they employ over 12m people, nearly half of the UK private sector workforce. Two thirds of UK businesses are family owned, around 4.8m in total, of which over 16,000 are medium and large businesses. Many of these businesses have been operating for generations because they have the agility to adapt to the current business environment and the appetite to invest long term.

Overall, our survey reflects the outlook for family businesses is largely positive, despite the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Family businesses are known for their resilience and of the 130 we spoke to, 83% say they are anticipating growth over the next two years with almost one in five expecting this to be fast and aggressive. This is really good news for the economy.

Technology features as both something respondents say they are doing more to embrace and something they still identify as disruptive to the status quo. More than half (53%) said their business will be stepping up their digital capabilities over the next two years suggesting some family businesses recognise the opportunity for technology to make them more competitive.

While family businesses have identified the need to embrace technology, our survey shows the issue that remains top of their list is the ability to attract and retain the best talent- 92%. A measure of how important this is to businesses is the fact that this came ahead of improving profitability- 74%. Family businesses have a natural advantage - they can offer a secure and rewarding working environment where employees feel like they are an extension of the family. They look after their people and once recruited their workforce tends to be incredibly loyal.

Given that family businesses are long term thinkers, it was telling to see in our results how important it is for them to contribute to their local community. In our survey, 58% said this was one of their long-term goals and results also showed that three quarters are involved in philanthropic activities beyond giving money to good causes, using their expertise to help local communities. For example, HMG Paints, based in
Newbury have created a work experience programme for 14-15 year olds. Construction company Shaylor have put in place programmes in their company to bring more diversity to the industry reinforcing their commitment and Hobbs House Bakery go into local schools and teach kids how to make bread.

More than four out of five family businesses told us they have a clear sense of agreed values and purpose as a company. Our research suggests purpose and values are increasingly important to prospective workers and 88% of respondents believe their values make their company a happier place to work.

Family business are the backbone of the private sector and our survey shows that successful businesses recognise the opportunity that comes from the disruption. They have proved their durability and with a renewed focus on their purpose and values, I believe we will now start to see family businesses reap their rewards.

Hannah Harris is the UK Family Business Leader at PwC
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