In general terms we are still recovering from the economic crisis that occurred a decade ago. In line with other interesting trends that have occurred in connection with business in the time since then (greater focus on localisation, increased leanings towards philanthropy, greater concern over environmental matters) there has arisen a distinct fashion for emphasising family business credentials.
Before that time, this was not necessarily the case. Businesses of all sizes were keen to have the look and feel of global enterprises, capable of sourcing the cheapest materials at break-neck speed to satisfy one goal, the quick sale at minimal cost. Now, the connotations of a business being family owned, living up to the values that go far beyond mere economic success, are ever-increasingly sought after. The fact of being a family business will often now sit front and centre in the branding, the profile of management, and the explanation of the history, the legacy and the community contribution.
Is this a good thing? Does it go beyond the usual points that are often re-told in reports on family owned business, ostensibly higher ethical values, loyalty with customers and suppliers, and pride? Well, I think it is and it does. One can easily be cynical about trends, and dismiss them as hollow, particularly in the context of our social media driven age, but here we are talking about something with more substance.
There is, in fact, a bedrock laid down in British economics by family owned businesses and their combined financial weight and employing power. Whilst we can analyse them and demonstrate tendencies that may differ from other ownership structures, broadly there is an overriding feeling of stoicism and resilience around family business. This has developed in the last decade and people have come to acknowledge, admire and ultimately support it, almost to celebrate that background family story by transacting with them. Somehow we feel we are doing something more than merely supporting the economy by buying from a family business.
The fashion for ‘family’ has arisen because, in the current climate, businesses recognise that it can lead directly to more sales, more profits and more options for the family’s wealth, philanthropy and other desired endeavours. But that has not been to the customer’s or, indeed, the business world’s detriment, because it is a trend with a resilient basis. There is a word of warning for each such business, to ensure that the true substance that makes the family owned story compelling and credible in their case is, in fact, there in spades. If it is, it is usually coupled with caring deeply about the impact of what they do as a business. That is a trend we can and should all support and celebrate.