Viewpoint: Happy Families

Viewpoint: Happy Families

It was one of Africa’s most famous sons, the Anglican Bishop and human rights activist, Desmund Tutu who memorably first identified the crucial role being part of a strong family unit plays in achieving a fulfilling life with his profound quote: “You don’t choose your family, they are god’s gift to you, as you are to them.”

And, as gifts go, it is one that for those closely associated with the construction industry that happily appears to just keep on giving. A new survey reveals the full extent of the contribution family building firms make to the UK economy, generating 11.8 per cent of the total gross value added contribution to UK GDP.

In the construction sector alone, there are now reckoned to be more than 900,000 family firms, employing 1.4 million people, providing almost 70 per cent of private sector employment. And despite economic uncertainty, they are growing, with turnover increasing by almost 18 billion in the last year alone.

As a spokesperson for the Institute for Family Business (IFB) who compiled the report, confirms:
“Family businesses are the backbone of the UK economy – but their widespread presence and contribution to the economy are often overlooked. You will find family businesses all across Britain, in every industry sector, from sibling start-ups to multi generational international brands.

“And with a million more family businesses created since 2010, and around 2.3 million people now working in such companies, the overall contribution to UK GDP has increased by £100 billion in the past eight years to a staggering £519 billion – meaning family firms now generate a quarter of UK GDP. This all demonstrates how growth in the family business sector benefits the UK economy, consumers, the Exchequer and the millions who actually put in the hours to grow their own businesses.”

with their strong sense of tradition, it is these businesses who clearly see the value of apprenticeships and training
In fact, the tax contribution is actually more than the annual NHS Budget and the IFB is calling on the government to recognise this and support them with policies which allow family firms to plan and invest for the future.

Certainly our own experiences of visiting family building companies over the years have been amongst the most memorable, evoking tales of an entrepreneurial spirit which has defied the odds.

Incredibly, one could even trace its history back more than four centuries of surviving plagues, pestilence, wars and economic meltdowns. And, whilst the vast the majority of modern day family building firms can measure their existence in decades rather than Millenia, with their strong sense of tradition it is these businesses who clearly see the value of investing in apprenticeships and professional qualifications and training. Alongside that, there is the impetus they naturally accrue through the new ideas and latest technical know-how which new blood invariably brings to long-established business practices.

What came across most strongly to us was the sense of pride many felt in having “& sons” (and, of course, increasingly daughters) attached to the company’s name. Conjuring up pictures of a friendly concern was clearly regarded as an important ally in securing contracts.

In fact, even where the fledglings had clearly left the nest some time ago, and family ties were no longer strong, firms were keen to hold on to an image of longevity and stability, albeit in some cases with a bit of mild deception! Whilst the exact origins of another appropriately famous quote are not quite so clear cut, there is certainly a case to be made that, when it comes to family and business, it clearly pays not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

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