This article is an extract from Transmission Private’s monthly newsletter, The Lede, which tracks the world of reputation management for private clients. You can sign up for the newsletter on our website via the tab at the bottom of this article or by completing the form here.
Family businesses pack a punch. 👊 The UK family business sector employs more than half of all employees in the private sector and almost two-fifths of the UK’s working people, according to new research produced by the IFB Research Foundation last month.
These stats are all the more extraordinary for just how overlooked family businesses are. We hear a huge amount about plucky young fintech start-ups (clearly very important) as well as the listed megaliths in London (again, clearly very important), but it’s our mid-sized and large private businesses that are the reliable stewards of the economy.
Why is this so important now? This new data comes at a time when anti-wealth sentiment is rising—dramatically. A few months ago, we wrote about how nearly 50% of mentions of ‘billionaire’ on Twitter were negative in tone—the highest ratio for nearly a decade. And, yet, given that we’re staring down the barrel of economic turbulence, never has it been more important for the country to have the patient capital and entrepreneurial freedom that family businesses provide.
How can family firms escape criticism? Silence will not cut it. If Molotov cocktails are being lobbed in your direction, hunkering down—in the blind hope that no one will notice you—is a bad and short-sighted strategy.
Family businesses, instead, must ensure that their counter-narrative is on the public record—preferably with supportive facts that are easily findable for the media, public and others online. What might that look like?
- Give visibility to mission and ethos. Family firms should showcase the values that drive their business decisions. Many family business owners see themselves not as short-term profit-drivers but as custodians of businesses for future generations, putting pay to the criticism that family shareholders are chasing profit. More firms should give visibility to this narrative on their websites.
- Highlight employee welfare. Family firms look after their teams arguably better than public companies, yet they do much less to highlight it. We’re overloaded with marketing campaigns from BP, IBM or HSBC (wonderful companies, of course) about how well they look after their employees. Yet the biggest family businesses feel embarrassed about doing the same. The publication of an Employee Charter on the family business website would go a long way to correcting this.
- Profile your economic and green impact. Family businesses are often shy talking about the number of jobs they support, taxes paid and their ESG credentials. Publishing this in an Annual Report, or even on a real-time impact panel, would rebalance the narrative substantially.
Bottom line… family businesses contribute far too much for them to stay quiet. As anti-wealth sentiment continues to rise, the stakes have never been so high to rebalance the narrative.