On the up · 9 December 2015

The small business advent calendar: 9 December – Festive family business merriment

Over the days leading up to Christmas we’ll be revealing one juicy morsel of small business reading every day
Over the days leading up to Christmas we’ll be revealing one juicy morsel of small business reading every day

For many the festive period is a dreaded season when the thrill of leaving the office at lunchtime on Christmas Eve is soon squashed by the fear of having to spend a week with family. But behind door number nine is a cheering fact about the large number of families that choose to spend every day working together.

Some nine million people are employed by three million family businesses in the UK – and such firms account for over two thirds of global GDP.

The proportion of family businesses varies up and down the UK, with Northern Island characterised by a particularly high concentration of such firms: three out of four companies there are family-owned, according to the Institute for Family Business (IFB).

And the sector creates revenue of £1.1tn each year – and contributes over 15 per cent of all government tax revenue.

Business secretary Sajid Javid said at an event organised by the IFB in November: “I grew up above my family’s business, and I’ve seen for myself how such companies are a vital part not just of our country’s economic success but of the communities they do much to serve. They deserve the government’s support.”

Recent research by KPMG also revealed that small family firms throughout Europe were positive about the future, with two thirds of owners optimistic about their business’s future – though the study also found that micro family firms faced more challenges than larger companies run by relatives: less than half reported increased turnover over the past six months.

Yet family firms have often proved remarkably resilient – in September Britain’s oldest family business celebrated its 500th anniversary. RJ Balson & Sons, a butcher’s in Dorset, has survived not just the economic turmoil of the past eight years but the Reformation and the English Civil War.

The KPMG study suggested that the biggest worry for many enterprises was passing the company down to the next generation – over 25 per cent of owners were considering handing over management to the next generation within the next 12 months, while one fifth were looking at transferring ownership to relatives.

Last week – in the run up to Small Business Saturday – Business Advice spoke to five small firms to showcase what can be done when generations generations work together in family businesses.

Come back tomorrow to find out what’s behind the next door.

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Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics – as well as running a tutoring company.