The changing face of the modern family business

Family businesses in the UK are more diverse than ever but they are facing greater challenges around succession and control according to new research.

The fourth annual study of UK and global family and owner-managed enterprises by Families in Business (FiB) shows a rise in the number of family firms with "blended families", with nearly a third (31%) now having step children or step parents involved - up from 25% in 2015.

The findings also reveal that more women are running family businesses - 26% of firms now have women as their managing director or CEO, up 6% on 2015 figures.

However, the research finds that the vast majority of family firms are struggling with work-life balance issues and business planning; 95% say that succession is missing from their future planning strategies and 97% of family business owners admit to a lack of direction and purpose for their business.

The key findings are:

  • 97% feel a lack of balance in their life;
  • 95% have no clear and defined succession plans;
  • 79% of family business owners admit they are worried they are not good enough to run the business;
  • 48% are cautious about the next 12 months, compared to 10% in 2015;
  • Sales and marketing (68%), direction and strategy (60%) and skills and talent (58%) are the biggest challenges for family businesses;
  • 39% of family firms admit that working with family puts a strain on their relationship.

Dani Saveker, FiB CEO, said: "When you work with family, you have the added emotions associated with responsibility, duty, being good enough and making the right decisions, as well as managing expectations and family dynamics.

"Increasingly, family members have struggled to balance work, life and family, so have had children later, which has led to a generation gap. And other firms are finding they have to deal with their families spreading out to live and work across the country, or even internationally."

But the biggest problem is planning for the future, she said. "Change management continues to be one of the top issues they face," said Savekar. "Just 5% have a succession plan in place and 17% a shareholders agreement, despite 9% of the current managing generation admitting they are worried there is no one to pass the business on to."

The FiB publishes an annual guide providing practical help and tools for family firms.

  • Excellent service and Barbara was brilliant; professional, thorough, cool head and friendly/personable.