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Keeping it in the family

It's a little known fact, but a whopping two thirds of all the UK's SMEs are family businesses.

That's three million of the country's 4.6 million small and medium sized enterprises – a truly impressive if not surprising statistic.

With the Government's assertion that it will be small business which pulls the UK economy out of the doldrums, it's clear then that family firms will be at the heart of economic recovery.

As drivers of enterprise, entrepreneurship, and commerce, there's a strong argument therefore that they should be given all the help they need to succeed.

So the importance of family run firms should really not be underestimated. We need to start seeing growth in this area as being intrinsically linked to the future health of the UK economy. In Germany, family businesses make up a huge 49% of GDP – here in the UK the figures is around 31%.

With BMW and Porsche belonging to Germany's 'family owned' stable, is mimicking the Teutonic model a bad thing?

The problem for many small firms here in the UK is partly the lack of forward planning – who will take over when the first generation bows out? According to the latest figures, barely one in five family firms make it past second generation of ownership.

The figure in Germany is higher, and to improve here succession planning can certainly be a useful tool to allow firms to go further, longer and be more successful through the generations.

Imagine where we would be if Bavarian Motor Works' founding father had not planned ahead at some point?

Succession planning is a huge issue for family businesses, and one firms ideally have to get right the first time. It's not something that should be put off either. Regardless of its size, a family business must be planning its management succession on the day it starts trading.

But where to start for the uninitiated?

This week we announced a partnership with management consultancy, Steuer Gregsson, which we believe will be able to help steer many of our family owned member businesses towards future success and, importantly, longevity.

Steuer Gregsson offers practical, tailored support for family firms in the area of succession planning, and our partnering will mean discounted deals for Forum members.

For more information telephone the Forum on 0845 130 1772.

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