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Support for North West family businesses is ‘lacking’

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25 February 2015

Support for North West family businesses is ‘lacking’

A lack of relevant government and professional support for the North West’s family-owned, small and medium sized businesses, is leaving their owners feeling isolated, alone and undervalued, which poses a serious threat to their future sustainability, according to a new network that launches in the region this week. National support organisation Families in Business (FiB) has the official launch of its North West division in Liverpool this Friday, 27th February.

Speaking ahead of the event, its founder and CEO Dani Saveker, said that whilst the North West has a number of public sector and government-backed support organisations, none of these provide guidance around the specific issues and dynamics of family and privately-owned businesses. “Family firms have no one to turn to who really understands the challenges they face,” she said, “and they are struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness. “When you consider the economic contribution they make in terms of employment, GDP and taxes, more should be done to understand and support them with relevant and trusted advice and ideas.” FiB has spoken to more than 300 family firms across the North West in the run-up to its launch and the feeling of isolation amongst them is tangible, says Dani: “I’m amazed that so many have said that as a family business they feel there is nowhere for them to go to to talk to people who understand and can help them.

Amongst the biggest challenges they have is succession and handover of the business to the next generation. Many are also facing issues over skills for the business, with the migration of talent away from the region – which echoes the findings of our own survey that highlighted this is a real issue for the vast majority of family firms across the UK.” There are over three million family businesses in the UK, and in the region of 300,000 family businesses in the North West, many of which have been operating for several generations. The North West is the third largest region in the UK and made the highest contribution to the UK’s manufacturing industry GVA last year. “FiB estimates that more than 170,000 family businesses will transfer to the next generation each year, but with the apparent lack of specific and quality advice, our concern is how many of these will make it through this critical stage in a family firm’s life cycle and into the next generation. “Family members working in their family business are incredibly proud and asking for help isn’t easy.

Many of the longest established family firms are in the ‘what next’ scenario typical of today’s fast changing world. Businesses in the North West and indeed throughout the UK are being failed by support organisations, advisers and government,” says Dani. “Throughout the world, not just in the UK, there continues to be a lack of appreciation for the significance of family-owned businesses; some advisers believe that ‘a one size fits all’ approach works and yet each family business we work with is unique. “FiB is committed to tackling this lack of support head-on by providing a fresh new approach to the support for family firms through our network of top quality advisers, family business champions and ambassadors, and a programme of peer group events and workshops.” FiB launches in the North West with the support of two of the region’s leading professional firms - accountancy firm, Mazars, and Liverpool commercial law practice O’Connors, which will act as its approved advisors across the region. Mason Media also joins FIB in providing PR, marketing and communication support to the regions businesses.

“Mazars and O’Connors are both exceptionally good firms that importantly have a commitment to the family business sector and to providing relevant, considered advice to family firms and individuals. They represent an important element of our organisation in the North West,” says Dani. Families in Business (FiB) is holding its opening event at the Hillbark Hotel & Spa this Friday 27th February, with guest speaker Ian Meadows, former High Sheriff of Merseyside, and executive chairman of lubricants manufacturer RS Clare & Co, which was founded in 1748, making it Liverpool’s oldest family business. Dani founded FiB in 2012 to ensure support, resources, tools and a “neutral community” exists for family businesses. She was formerly the fourth generation and chief executive in her own family’s manufacturing business for seven years. “This means FiB can support family businesses from a position of knowing some of what they are experiencing and the challenges they are facing having ‘lived it’ for many years,” she said. For more information about Families in Business,  follow @fibcommunity on Twitter.