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Small Family Businesses: a key to economic resilience and sustainability

Posted by: Dr Brian Jones

JonesA report published earlier this year by the Institute for Family Businesses highlights the importance of family busineses to the UK economy. There are over 4.5 million of them in the UK, employing over 12 million people and contributing £460 billion to the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The importance of family businesses is clear, and at a time of great change – the Brexit negotiations, new government policy and increased global uncertainty –  understanding the leadership and management challenges this brings to family businesses is a critical area for research and policy.

As part of a research project funded by the European Union Erasmus Programme, researchers from Hungary, Poland, Croatia and France were joined at Leeds Business School by family businesses in Yorkshire to discuss some of the challenges and what the university can do to help to develop the leaders of today and tomorrow. Professor Leo-Paul Dana from Montpellier Business School and Dr Claire Seaman of Queen Margaret’s University, Edinburgh, highlighted the role small family businesses play in sustaining a diverse business base and contributing to a vibrant local economy. Representatives from A. W. Hainsworth, a seventh-generation business in Leeds, and Street Food Chef, a first generation business in Sheffield, provided insights into and vivid descriptions of the diverse challenges of balancing family and business priorities.   

The event provided an early signal of our intention to develop new offerings and courses that reflect the interests of small family businesses. Real-life experiences from small family businesses in the UK, as well as across Europe can help us to better understand the type of knowledge and learning that will help managers and leaders to start-up, develop, grow and sustain their enterprises and ensure that they continue to make a valuable contribution to our economy.

Dr Brian Jones is an academic-consultant and Senior Lecturer in Marketing at Leeds Business School.  His current research interests include Entrepreneurship, Social Media and Corporate Social Responsibility.  Brian is currently part of a project team developing Masters level modules for small family business.

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