What Makes Family Businesses Different?
15th March 2019
Reading time: 4 min
In this article we find out what the Managing Director of a family-owned company believes makes family businesses different.
We hear so much about a global world for every aspect of our lives, sometimes making the term ‘family business’ be associated with something that is from another era or ‘old-fashioned’. But if you think that’s the case, then think again…
Within the UK alone there are over 4.8 million family businesses, in every possible industry sector that you can think of, but more importantly over 16,000 of these are medium to large sized businesses – generating over a quarter of UK GDP and employing over 12 million people. Even more importantly, they are growing! Some huge household names are among them, and many are members of the IFB (Institute of Family Business).
Think of names and brands such as Dyson, Specsavers, Portakabin, JCB and many more, plus some huge organisations whose names are not always as widely known but include global brands and products with turnover into the billions and tens of thousands of employees. But the backbone of these are the Small to Medium sized businesses employing hundred’s, rather than thousands. There is nothing ‘Old-fashioned’ about it.
Good Travel Management’s parent company, John Good & Sons Ltd, are one such business, established in Hull 1833 by John Good as a ship’s chandlers the company has evolved into an internationally successful shipping, logistics and travel business and was this month awarded the accolade of the 16th fastest growing UK business for international trade in the Sunday Times HSBC track 200!. Still in the same private family ownership since its inception, employees, customers and suppliers benefit from the stability and long-term strategy of a great company to work for or to work with.
So how does this affect a customer and what makes Good Travel Management, as a family business, different from so many other travel businesses in operation? Well, we are obviously going to be biased, it's our business and we feel it's something special, but it's not just a nice marketing piece for our website or logo, it’s something real and tangible, something that isn’t easy to replicate. Yes, you do benefit from working with a family business, whether you are a family business yourself or you are drawn to the culture, ethics and approach that a family business brings to a business relationship.
So here we highlight just a few areas that make us different:
It sounds a bit boring, but stability is something that is so vital in business. Think of all the travel businesses that change name and ownership and often it can become a rather bland organisation to the degree that you really don’t know who you are dealing with and trusting such a vital part of your company’s functions with. You are in safe hands.
The IFB quotes that family businesses are less driven by short-term financial results and are prepared to sacrifice short-term gains for the achievement of longer-term goals. This long-term approach to investing is often referred to as “patient capital.” You know who you are working with and that gives comfort and reassurance.
Culture and personality
Family businesses have a different culture and personality……. we think differently, we care because we are embedded into our business and are valued. We have pride in who we are and what we deliver and have some fantastic people who are encouraged to go the extra mile. Family and non-family staff have a greater sense of loyalty to family businesses. They also tend to be more committed to the success of the business and are more passionate about what the business stands for and the service that it delivers.
Why would you not want to work with someone like that?
When doing business, it is obvious that you need a someone who supplies all the services and solutions that you require, provides value and is innovative……. but for many companies, you also want to know that you are working with a supplier or partners who has values. Family businesses are much more likely to treat their employees, their suppliers and their customers better……in a way you would like to be treated yourself. Here at the John Good Group we have values that are embedded in everything we do – here are some extracts:
Provide a service we are proud of
Support each other and work together
Make long term business decisions
Always seek to improve
Be a responsible member of the community
Ability to adapt and change more effectively
Family businesses tend to be far more adaptable and can change more swiftly and effectively to changes in the economic climate, within the industries they work within and tune into what their customers want by ensuring they are ‘relevant’. How would they have been in business for so long if they didn’t? Decision making is often quicker, employees are trusted, and they are less likely to be tied to preferred suppliers and agreements, meaning you will get the solutions that you want and that are in your interests and not what is just best for the business delivering the services to you.
Family firms are far more likely to be committed to the local communities in which they operate and take an active role in local projects. Many family business people also undertake significant philanthropic activities and take their CSR seriously. At Good Travel Management all our employees are members of the Matthew Good Foundation – a charitable foundation that is funded by the profits of the John Good Group with a minimum of £50,000 being donated per year or 2% of profits, whichever is the greatest.
This enables employees to support new charitable initiatives which they are spearheading alongside existing charitable causes in which they volunteer. Furthermore, all fundraising events and activities undertaken by employees for charities and community groups are double match funded by the Foundation.
So, in summary, there really is a difference……. Family businesses are a real success story and are something to be proud of. If you are a family business, then consider joining the Institute of Family Business (IFB) and benefit from this excellent ‘not for profit’ organisation which focuses on developing and supporting family businesses in the UK and around the world. Or for more information about what it means to be a family business then click here.