Chamber President’s Column - December 2017

Posted on 13/12/2017

Family-run firms make vital contributions to the economy.

Taking time out recently, which I recommend as an important opportunity to review and plan for next year and beyond, I began considering family-run firms and their continuing important contribution to the economy.

An online search led me to an up-to-date report - 'The State of the Nation: the UK Family Business Sector 2016/2017. Prepared by the Institute for Family Business (IFB), I was surprised to read that this country's 4.7 million family-run businesses employ more than 12 million people.

Looking across our Chamber membership, (and without naming particular names for obvious reasons), there are many outstanding family firms. The collected data in the report confirms that across the UK, these businesses earned £1.4 trillion. That figure had grown by 6% on the previous 12 months. They contributed £460 billion to the UK'S GDP. 

Many of these family run businesses are in fact owner-operated, without any employees. The data above gives a hint to that fact. These firms require excellent management to succeed and grow. One-man operations, by their nature, are often more challenging to maintain with multiple disciplinary skill-sets being required.

From my perspective,  it is extremely encouraging to look back and see just how many single owner run businesses have gone on to be major successes. There have unfortunately been fallers on the way, I am afraid. That is the nature of commerce.

Your Chamber is proud and delighted that we already have many of these businesses amongst our growing membership. Of course, there is always room for more to join; and, we welcome their interest in becoming part of 'our family'.

Those who have joined told me, in one of my independent surveys, that being part of a larger group of like-minded companies added to their confidence.  Whilst family businesses often have very strong foundations, they still benefit from using an outward looking approach. It helps to bring in fresh ideas and thinking; and, so, avoiding excessive inward navel gazing. 

Whilst, there are many upsides to running and family business, for example, succession planning; there are also some downsides. My respondents told me that running a family business can easily become a 24/7 occupation. The firm is your baby; so it can become very difficult not to be tending it every hour of the day.

I was interested to hear a growing number telling me that getting outsiders' views can be highly beneficial. It's clear that they can offer a fresh perspective. Amongst the Chamber membership, there is support and advice available from a wide plethora of sources.

Take a look at the new Chamber Annual Review and membership list which has just been published. The coverage of our membership includes every conceivable market sector, business type and size of operation.

It is also timely to remind yourself of the range of services available to members. For example, the Chamber office can help provide you with a shortlist of potential suppliers and contacts, if that is something you would like to pursue.

It has been a challenging year for many businesses with both high and low points. I don’t think that we need too much reminding of what they might have been.

Maintaining continuity, building new capabilities and enhancing productivity remain of high importance.  Your Chamber, as part of Greater Birmingham Chamber Group, is here to assist you.

May I wish you, your staff, your business partners, your families and all your friends a very Happy Christmas and New Year.  May 2018 offer new challenges and opportunities. 

I welcome feedback and comment on this column and the work and activities of the Chamber. You can contact me at [email protected]

Simon Chapman

President of Burton and District Chamber of Commerce

Managing Director, Yee Group Limited