Attracting and retaining skilled employees is the biggest business challenge facing family firms in Nottingham.
Senior representatives from nine of Nottingham’s family-run and owned businesses discussed their concerns at an event at Harts Hotel, and agreed that more support from national and local government and authorities is what’s needed to help local family businesses to find, develop, train and keep skilled employees at every level, in order that they continue to thrive.
Discussions at the event, which was hosted by Families in Business (FiB), the independent support organisation for family firms, and business and financial advisers Mazars, also revealed that legislative ‘red tape’, particularly employment law, gets in the way of family businesses who look after their employees in a more in-depth way that’s different to their non-family business counterparts, treating them as part of an ‘extended family’.
The ‘Exclusive Dinner and Discussion’ evening was the first hosted by FiB in the UK, and kicked-off its new national programme of informal, confidential discussion events. FiB’s CEO Dani Saveker explains: “The evenings are an opportunity to meet family business peers, share thoughts, challenges and ideas in a relaxed and safe environment.
“We chose Nottingham, and Harts Hotel, as the location for the event’s launch as the city is home to a number of significant, established family businesses, as well as the regional base for Mazars, one of our Approved Advisers in the East Midlands.
“Discussions proved fascinating, and the challenge of attracting and retaining skilled employees was a thread linking each of the invited family businesses, which represented a range of non-competing industries and business ages, turnover and family generations.
“The skills shortage is evident at every level in family businesses, and the larger firms admitted to investing in their own staff training and development as the way to providing the additional up-skilling of their staff. Technology and the fast-moving world of business and innovation also presents issues for family firms, and whilst employee progression is encouraged, this isn’t always a solution to the skills shortage as they aren’t always able to bring new capabilities and modern thinking to the business. The answer for many has been to bring in additional, outside support from professionals who can challenge the family’s management team and keep them on their toes.
“Concerns over the work ethic of the ‘have it now’ generation were also raised, along with the emotional issues inherent in family firms that face additional pressure from family relationships, issues and challenges about the business. The biggest challenge these businesses faced with regards to family and the more emotional dynamics were linked to relationships and of course succession planning.
“We know from our 2015 survey that only 4% of family firms have a robust succession plan in place, that less than a quarter (19%) have a shareholders agreement, and that in nearly half of all family business collapses, the failure of the business is precipitated by the founder’s death,” Dani added. “Discussions addressed these emotive issues and explored how family businesses are ‘future-proofing’ themselves. Many shared personal stories of sudden illness and even bereavement that had had a profound and deeply-felt impact on their own family’s business, especially as a robust succession plan hadn’t been put in place.”
Alistair Wesson, Mazars’ East Midlands Managing Partner and a FiB Ambassador was also at the event. He said: ‘’Great to be involved in such a successful forum, especially where such open and candid debate provided real insight into the businesses’ issues and concerns. Mazars firmly believe that family businesses are at the centre of our economy and deserve the very best of support and advice.
“Dani has eloquently managed to create an arena where we can all share and benefit from open discussion and friendship.”
Dani added: “The event was a fascinating insight into Nottingham’s family business sector, and one enjoyed by all. Guests have told us how beneficial they found the intimate and powerful discussions amongst a peer group who really understand the issues faced by family firms. The like-minded entrepreneurs gathered together represented an incredibly diverse range of industries, who were aligned in their thoughts by family ties that provide the stability commitment and flexibility for their family enterprises, and which are a true advantage for any industry. The next step is to now launch an Insight group – a bi-monthly peer group of family businesses that will meet locally to continue addressing the issues that they face daily in business and as a family.”
Dani Saveker founded FiB in 2012 and was formerly the fourth generation and CEO in her own family’s manufacturing business for seven years, so has first-hand experience of the complexities of family businesses. FiB is the UK’s only independent and neutral support organisation for family and privately owned businesses, and operates across the UK via a growing network of regional offices, to provide support, consultancy and membership to family firms and their owners.