The Quest to Live Beyond 100: Cases of Resilient UK Family Businesses
By Ajay Bhalla, Aneesh Banerjee and Joseph Lampel
How many businesses survive more than 100 years? Of the business that do survive – how many remain financially robust?
A high proportion of family-owned businesses struggle to survive beyond the second or third generation. According to the Family Business Institute, only 30% last into the second generation, 12% into the third, and 3% into the fourth or beyond.
What have these businesses and their family-owners done differently that is likely to have contributed to their resilience? What can be learnt about firms that survive beyond 100 years?
Over the last five years, we have engaged with a group of four British, family-owned businesses that are more than 100 years old. These four family businesses - Bibby Line Group, Samworth Brothers, Thatchers Cider, and Wates Group - were all founded in the nineteenth century. They all continue to be deeply embedded in the local communities where they started and they are still tightly held within the family.
We wanted to understand the traditions, practices and leadership that enable these businesses to be resilient and grow over many generations.
While each family business is unique, we hope you find learnings from these four case studies useful.
A diverse £1 billion global business, operating in 16 countries and employing around 4,000 people in sectors including retail, ﬁnancial services, distribution, marine and construction equipment hire. Founded in 1807 by John Bibby, Bibby Line Group is headquartered in Liverpool. Read the full case study.
A fourth-generation family business that employs around 8,000 people, with a turnover of about £1billion. Established in 1896 by George Samworth, Samworth Brothers has maintained a focus on [the?] food industry, building its reputation for quality and a long-term approach to investment. Headquartered in Melton Mowbray, UK, the family business group has 17 business units each with its own board of directors. Read the full case study.
Set-up in 1878, in north Somerset, Thatchers Cider is one of the UK’s best known and largest independent cidermakers. Currently run by Martin Thatcher, Thatchers continues to make substantial investment both in its business and the local community. It maintains a strong presence in international markets and sells in over 22 countries worldwide. Read the full case study.
Set-up by Edward Wates in 1897 as a furniture business in south London, the enterprise first ventured into housing when Edward bought a plot of land and built two houses with the help of his brothers who were in the construction business. Today Wates Group consists of several businesses all operating in the built environment sector. In 2017, it reported turnover of £1.62 billion. The Group is led by James Wates and his cousins from the fourth generation who work closely with industry professionals to co-create value for both the business and society. Read the full case study.