A major new research project has revealed how family businesses and small and medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Scotland have the potential to boost the country’s annual economy by up to £1.23 billion.
The study, involving universities, government bodies, businesses and professional advisers, suggests that more focus needs to be placed on successful family business and SME transfer to help maintain and boost Scotland’s economy.
Researchers agree that improved infrastructure and support mechanisms can help protect jobs, increase employment, widen business ownership and maintain existing local supply chains.
In Scotland, SMEs account for 99.3% of all private sector enterprises and 63% of these are family businesses.
73% of Scottish family businesses want to keep the business in the family. In 2012, only 12% of family owned businesses in Scotland were passed down to the second generation and only 7% of family owned SMEs had been in the family for three generations or more.
This new research is raising awareness of the impact of poor succession, lack of exit strategies, failure to successfully transfer a family business from one generation to another and how this could be damaging the Scottish economy.
In 2012, 17,385 new enterprises were set up in Scotland, but 16,760 of these have now ceased to exist. A number of these business closures resulted from failed business succession.
Surprisingly, the survival rate of new businesses after five years is around 35-50%. In contrast, the survival rate of business transfers is around 90-96%. The research is also beginning to show that transferred businesses outperform new start-ups in terms of turnover, profit, innovation and employment.
The Goodison Group in Scotland and Scotland’s Futures Forum is working with a number of partners in an effort to discuss these issues, influence thinking on future policy and practice and to identify practical interventions.
Over 100 representatives from SMEs and family business, government agencies, education and professional advisers from around Scotland attended two landmark conferences held in Edinburgh and Inverness to discuss what the research means for Scotland.
David C Watt, Director of Goodison Group in Scotland, said: “There is a fantastic opportunity here. The results of the research project will be used to engage with Scotland’s SME and family business policy makers and practitioners. Scotland has the potential to be a world leader in this field.”
Dr Claire Seaman, Senior Lecturer in Enterprise & Family Business at QMU, said: “Feedback from this latest study has confirmed that family businesses are crying out for the right kind of support to help them succeed beyond the first generation.
“This collaborative research has explored ways of improving the growth and sustainability of Scottish SMEs and family businesses, but more specialist support is required.
“If we want to change thinking and practice and improve business succession across these businesses, we need an integrated approach to learning, research and influencing policy.”
Grant Bell, Owner of East Links Family Park in Dunbar, East Lothian, said: “Queen Margaret University is currently working with us on the next phase of development in the Park with the intention to enter into a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University and a postgraduate student.
“There is a great support network out there for family businesses and SMEs in Scotland.
“East Links Family Park has joined many networking events hosted by East Lothian Council, the Midlothian and East Lothian Chamber of Commerce and Queen Margaret University, as well as industry specific events held by VisitScotland and the National Farm Attractions Group.
“It’s an exciting time for family and small businesses – there’s a lot of help out there and much of it is free.”
East Links Family Park has just received the Family Business Award from Midlothian and East Lothian Chambers of Commerce. The award highlights the importance of family businesses to the Scottish economy.