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Celebrating brilliant family businesses – our 2017 Cotswold Life Family Business Awards

Family businesses are the backbone of the economy, the backbone of our communities.

So says the Institute for Family Business, and we couldn’t agree more. Family firms come in all shapes and sizes – in fact, two-thirds of all businesses are family-owned. That equates to 4.7m in the UK alone, 17,000 of which are medium and large businesses. Many – like some of our winners – have been trading for hundreds of years. And in today’s economic climate, that’s no mean feat.

Family businesses generate more than 25% of the UK’s GDP and they employ almost 12.2m people, which amounts to almost half of private sector employment.

Incredibly, in the last financial year, they paid a whopping £133bn in tax – that’s 20% of total Government revenue. But what is it that ensures their longevity?

Sir Michael Bibby, chairman of the IFB’s research foundation, offers that it’s because owners often commit most of all of their investments to the company.

That they invest in their people through training and development, meaning staff turnover is lower than in many other sectors, and that they support their local communities through charity endeavours.

But we think it’s more than that. We think it’s because strong values run through the family firms that we’re lucky enough to have contact with – family values passed on through generation transition.

And because these companies embrace and embody responsible capitalism, ie they avoid excessive debt and take a sustainable approach to investment, they’re less likely to go under when tough economic times hit. But that doesn’t mean family businesses come without their issues: the weight of expectation hangs heavy.

What happens if the son or daughter doesn’t want to run a manufacturing company? What happens if they’d rather spend their days playing drums in a metal band, or doing yoga in a Puglian trullo? And how do they ensure, without fresh eyes and wider experience, that they’re innovating in the most effective way?

Last year, PWC released the 2016 Family Business Survey which addressed this issue – how to bridge the strategy gap.

Researchers interviewed 2,800 senior executives across 50 countries and found that half didn’t have a succession plan.

It was the eighth year of the survey and they found that though the key issues remained the same for family businesses, the dominant themes had shifted – first from scale and succession and then the need to professionalise both the family and the company. Now, they say, the shift is more fundamental; from short-term tactics to the long-term, with a real focus on strategy.

During the judging process for these, the fifth Cotswold Life Family Business Awards, this focus has been noticeable, and we’re delighted to celebrate their significant success. From the old guard – of which there are many which have been trading for more than a century - to the bright new kids on the block, family firms are thriving.

From farms to retailers, manufacturers to jewellers, we applaud their contribution to both the economy and the diversity of our business landscape.

Click here to read the full article in the magazine and hear more about our winners

What is a family business?

A business actively owned and/or managed or worked in full time by more than one member of the same family. Such family businesses range from huge corporations to local ‘mom and pop’ retail stores, the family farm or other commercial business. As a family business passes from one generation to the next, children will learn the job from at an early age. In any other sector this could be seen as child labour, but in a family business is more often referred to as ‘helping mum and dad’ and the children enjoy being involved and learn valuable skills directly related to the family business at a much younger age.

A message from our sponsor Hazlewoods:

Family businesses are truly unique and are the backbone of the UK’s economy. Ruth Dooley, Partner in Hazlewoods Corporate Services Team, works closely with a wide variety of businesses. Ruth and the team regularly provide advice on the many challenges that can arise from a family business and help to avoid the pitfalls. This ranges from tax advice, ownership agreements, succession planning and much more. Hazlewoods aim to help family businesses create a more successful venture, drawing upon their unique strengths.

- Ruth Dooley

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