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I sat down to write this piece. I had come across a report and I wanted to tell you a bit about the authors to help put it into some sort of context. What would we do without the Internet and Google?

The Authors are PwC. They no longer style themselves as accountants. They are a Professional Services Network with 284000 staff in 155 countries around the world. We are catching up fast. They are one of the “Big” 4 which, when I started my training were the Big 10, which became the Big 8 for many years and so on.

I remember when they were Price Waterhouse and they merged with Deloitte Cooper & Lybrand. Coopers had been Coopers and Lybrand and previously Cooper Brothers and Deloittes had been Deloitte Haskins and Sells. I once saw a family tree of one of the Big firms and you could trace their roots back to small firms just like us with names like Robert Fletcher & Co. founded 1818 and William Cooper founded 1854. Through growth and mergers over the years, these giants of the accounting world grew to what we see today. Perhaps in another 100 years or so there will be a Big firm that traces its roots back to us. We can dream.

Anyway, the point of all these nostalgic ramblings was to tell you a little about the report.

They concluded that family-owned businesses proved their flexibility through the pandemic disruptions but are showing little inclination to embrace new technology and sustainability strategies as they plan for recovery.

They say that family-owned firms are struggling to innovate and are resistant to change despite having their business models upended by Covid-19.

Some 80% of the 2,801 family businesses across 87 countries polled by the Big Four firm said they were concerned about innovation and technology and that their progress towards digital transformation was slow. Just under a third (29%) of family-owned businesses said overhauling their digital strategy and improving systems was not high on their agenda, despite listing it as a priority.

One of the questions here is what do PwC count as a small business. I doubt whether their idea of small is the same as ours.

I do not have a survey to fall back on but the majority of “small” businesses that I see are family run businesses where the proprietors are still very much hands on. They survive because they work long hours and many will generate profits less that their employees are getting. But it is their business and they are going to make it work. It is hard high-pressure work but it is satisfying to face down the challenges. And you don’t get much appreciation or recognition for what you have achieved. You just have the satisfaction of knowing it inside and that you have managed to get by financially.

Dr Peter Bartels, global leader, for entrepreneurial and private business at PwC Germany said “Thriving in today’s world will require a change of mindset; a rethinking of their priorities and behaviours, including heightened investment in the digital tools needed for economic resilience; and a new definition of legacy. The world is changing, and so is the formula for lasting family business success.”

Despite this reluctance to push ahead with technological change, PwC said four out of five businesses (82%) are prioritising diversification and/or expanding into new markets or products. The firm said these were two of the three top priorities for businesses over the next two years.

I think I would agree with this last point. We are seeing a lot of diversification, driven for the most part by necessity. You only have to look at the number of businesses now doing a significant amount of online trading.

But there is something else, and it is probably the reason why you are self employed in the first place. You are amongst the most resilient segment of the population. You can and do, get things done. It is likely that you got little or no assistance from the government through the pandemic but you are going to survive anyway, and any way you can.

People like you are important, but don’t expect a pat on the back. This country needs more people like you!

Alan Long

The Long Partnership

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