Family businesses have a leading role in shaping a successful future for the UK

July 3, 2023

Neil Davy, Chief Executive of Family Business UK

Over the past few years, we’ve seen extraordinary political change. In my brief time as Chief Executive of the Institute for Family Business, the UK has witnessed four Chancellors, three Prime Ministers, and two Monarchs.

This unprecedented amount of disruption and uncertainty has continued across the business sector thanks to geopolitical instability, a cost-of-living crisis affecting all parts of our economy, as well interest rates and inflation levels not seen for years.

Most recently, low levels of trust in our big institutions, including business bodies, have been rocked even further and left businesses of all sizes wondering where to look for some certainty, a voice, and a hopeful vision for the future.

Even with the Prime Minister’s five pledges set out earlier this year – which include halving inflation–Britain risks merely moving from a position of atrophying to stagnation, or at best low growth.

A strategy for growth

The UK needs to formulate a growth strategy that encourages and incentivises businesses to focus on longer-term investment opportunities and returns for stakeholders, the environment, and the UK’s role and place in the wider world.

Similarly, if the events of the past few months have taught us anything, it’s that the business community and the groups that represent British industry need to work much harder for the businesses they represent if they, and the UK, is to have a prosperous future.

We need to champion the interests of business, but also provide support in helping them grow, and highlight their role and contribution economically, as well as in every aspect of society.  This starts by properly acknowledging, representing and listening to the views of family businesses which operate in every sector and community in the UK.

The opportunity

That’s why, today, we are proud to unveil Family Business UK: a new movement of family businesses advocating for the family business model as a leading example of sustainable and responsible business that should have a stronger role in shaping Government policy and within the UK economy.

For too long, political, industry and business decision-making has taken a restricted approach to investment decisions that responds to the priorities of non-family business PLCs, whose priority is to meet the demands of anonymous shareholders looking for short-term returns on investments.

​There is now an opportunity – and a need – for the voice and model of family business to take centre stage.  Family businesses offer a model that others can learn from, work with, work for, or even adopt.

Family businesses represent the bedrock of our communities, the backbone of our economy and are people-centric organisations.

Our latest research, in conjunction with Censuswide, reveals the majority of the British public would prefer to work for a family business over other business models such as Private Equity, PLCs, and Venture Capital Firms.

Those polled also said they would rather buy from a family business than from any other type of business. They are so much more than short-term wealth creators, but forward-thinking innovators, skill providers, community builders and multigenerational institutions embedded into the history and fabric of British society.

In 2020, family businesses across the whole of the UK generated £575 billion in gross value added (GVA) contribution to GDP (gross domestic product) and employed 13.9 million people.

A positive step forward

It’s time to show the positive impact family businesses have on our society, the economy, and the environment. And it’s time for Government to advocate and support the sector if we want to address and solve the biggest challenges in society and create a more prosperous future for all.

Family Business UK is a growing movement that will champion the model of the family business. They present a leading model of sustainable and responsible businesses that puts the interests of all stakeholders, not only shareholders, first.  I don’t believe they have been properly acknowledged, represented or championed.

Our aim is to support family businesses and the sector to grow and prosper for generations to come; advocate for policies and regulation that incentivise long-term investment and ensure the financial sustainability of the sector; and shift perceptions towards family businesses, and the contribution they make to society.

Family businesses are vital to the long-term strength and prosperity of the UK, and our economy and our communities. For too long their value and contribution has been under-represented and overshadowed. It’s time for that imbalance to be addressed.