Posted on: 19 March 2015

Family businesses are the unsung heroes of our nation. With 2 in 3 of all private sector firms being owned by a family, they generate over £1.1 trillion in annual revenue.

Next time you visit the hairdressers, eat in your local restaurant or call out the plumber, chances are you’re contacting a family business. Not only that, but 25% of GDP is produced by family businesses, cementing their important position in our economy as well as our local communities.

It’s not easy running a family business though. Working with your partner, parent, child, sibling or relative adds another dynamic to your career and your life at home.

For those family businesses that are striving for their big break, or who are just starting out together and want to know how to put the right foot forward, here are some wise words from family members and business experts whose businesses are already succeeding.

Amalia Brightley-Gillot, PR and Marketing Director, Family Business Place

“The number one secret to success for our family business is communication. If you don’t talk to each other, wrong assumptions are made, resentment builds up and nothing gets done. My mum is the MD and I head up our PR and communications, so we meet weekly to talk about anything and everything.

“We have one clear vision for our business. Everyone is heading in the same direction and wants to achieve the same goals. We have also made sure that family members have distinct roles from each other. Too much overlap causes arguments, so we’ve found a balance between managing separate parts of the business whilst also working together as a team.”

Family Business Place is dedicated to promoting and supporting British family firms. We create opportunities for family-run businesses to share stories, publicise achievements, engage with professional advisors and create a network of contacts with similar needs, issues, frustrations and experiences.

Fiona Graham, Communications Director, Institute for Family Business

"Strong values are one of the things that make family business great. Identify your family’s values, and live by them. Working together to identify your values helps to develop shared goals that will help drive and underpin your future behaviour. As families expand and scatter a sense of shared values becomes ever more important in binding family members together and to the business.”

The Institute for Family Business is the UK’s family business organisation, supporting and promoting the UK family-owned business sector through events, networking, representation, thought leadership and research.

Professor Alfredo de Massis, Director of the Centre for Family Business, Lancaster University Management School

Family firms would not survive across multiple generations without the ability and willingness to innovate and adapt to changing circumstances. In fact, countless revolutionary inventions that have changed the course of industries and history have come from family firms through disruptive innovation.

The Centre for Family Business inspires and supports better management of family firms through their international, collaborative and multidisciplinary research on the distinctive organisational goals, processes and outcomes engendered by family influence on businesses.

Penny Webb, Managing Director, Familias & Company

“Start planning your business’s future early, including articulating its strategic direction, the competencies required to execute strategy and whether or not you’re going to recruit non-family or family members onto your board. If a family business starts by placing family members before strategic aims, they meet these aims but not without a significant delay and sub-optimal results. Finding the most appropriate role for a family member must comprise part of this process. In most cases, external support proves to be priceless. 

Penny has consulted in a wide variety of family businesses in the private and public sectors.

Phil Ellwood, Managing Director, Lamont Pridmore Chartered Accountants

“Successful family businesses, like ours, are often built on traditional values and a longer term approach to customer relationships, which helps us to manage issues whilst still retaining a strong commercial focus. We put much of our own success down to our great team, commitment to customer service, effective communication and our ability to look to the future rather than the past.”

Lamont Pridmore is an award-winning, family run firm of accountants, tax and business advisers with offices throughout Cumbria, Lancashire and Southern Scotland

John Jones, Managing Partner, Philip Morris & Son

“We’ve found over the years that honesty in what we each want out of the business is the only way to balance the business with family life. As long as everyone has the same expectations, and everyone knows what they are working towards, then you can move forward happily. Individually we can each have different objectives, just as long as everyone is open when agreeing those objectives. One of the great things about a family business is the flexibility it allows when agreeing objectives.”

Philip Morris & Son was established in Hereford as an ironmongers in 1845. Whilst true to its roots and very much still a family business it has developed into the thriving business of today encompassing a physical department store and an online website.

Adrian Maxwell, Managing Director, Fracino

“Retaining its core values while marking unprecedented expansion at home and abroad is key for Fracino. Clearly defining the roles of family members is also vital as we post double digit growth year on year.”

Fracino is a third generation family business and the UK’s only manufacturer of cappuccino and espresso coffee machines.

Derrick Potter, Executive Chairman & Founder, Potter Logistics

“Part of the success of the business is attributed to the first class staff we employ at all levels across the business. All staff are treated and are seen as part of the Potter family. We believe in nurturing and developing each member of staff to achieve their true potential, rewarding hard work, treat everyone fairly and thank them for their dedication.

“As a family it was felt that good family governance was essential to underpin the running of Potter Logistics. It was therefore decided to set up a special structure to take the business into the future. This resulted in the setting up of the Family Council which was the wish of the next generation and to help bridge the gap and act as a sounding board between the Family and the Executive Board, the Advisory Board was also set up which comprises some Family members and external advisers.”

Potter Logistics is a family business in its 50th year, having grown to become one of the UK's most experienced and professional third party logistics services providers. It provides warehousing and distribution services to a range of 'regulated industry' sectors.

Robin Skailes, Director, Cropwell Bishop Creamery

"It's really all about having a passion for the product we make. Over time the new generations of our family have developed the same passion for our handmade cheeses - as a family, we simply like and enjoy the cheeses we make. They're products we're all proud of."

Cropwell Bishop believes in keeping things in the family. That is why, from their creamery in the beautiful Vale of Belvoir, they have made mouthwateringly delicious Stilton for more than three generations.

Judith D’Ambrosio, The Scottish Shutter Company

“In a sentence, it’s our desire to WOW our clients on a daily basis and each team member really gets behind this ethos.

Our whole family depends on the success of this business. Customer service is so lacking these days in many businesses that we make every effort to ensure that we WOW our clients and every member of the team has the role of customer service manager, it’s not just one person’s job. We all have our eye on the prize of what a super successful business this can be and we all want to grow it together.”

The Scottish Shutter Company is Scotland’s finest award winning family shutter company designing and installing shutters and specialist shading products throughout Scotland.

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Who in my family should I go into business with?

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