Brexit tops poll for Yorkshire family business owners

Brexit is the biggest single issue which will have the greatest impact on business in the next 12 months say hundreds of family business owners.

With Prime Minister Theresa May revealing she will trigger Article 50 next Wednesday 29 March, Brexit is revealed as the number one topic in the UK’s biggest survey of family businesses.

More than 400 family businesses from across 32 UK counties, who employ 8,000 people with a salary bill of more than £210m, took part in the survey, conducted by leading independent financial and business advisers Armstrong Watson.

Family businesses account for at least 70% of all private sector businesses.

Thirty-five percent of respondents to the survey cited Brexit as the issue set to have the greatest impact on their business in 2017. Of those 69 percent expect it to have a negative impact.

In Yorkshire, 33 percent cited Brexit as the biggest issue, but they are split on whether it will be a positive or negative influence on their business, with 45 percent seeing it as positive and 55 percent as negative.

The next single biggest issue was the National Living Wage. Of the 13 per cent of Yorkshire businesses who highlighted it, 83 per cent expect it to have a negative effect.

Auto-enrolment is another challenge for family businesses with 88 percent of those who highlighted it in Yorkshire expecting it to have a negative impact on their business.

The main positive picked out by family businesses was low-interest rates with 67 percent of Yorkshire businesses who referred to this area of finance expecting it to have a positive impact on their business this year.

When it comes to future ownership, almost half (49 percent) of Yorkshire family business owners plan to hand their business over to their children; only eight percent plan to sell to the highest bidder, nine percent sell to the bidder who will carry on their ethos and values, and only five percent plan to cease trading altogether.

But they are not in any rush to make those changes, with 54 per cent set to carry on in the same ownership for more than ten years, with only 23 percent set to change within the next five years.

When it comes to their personal finance less than half (48 percent) of Yorkshire family business owners are confident the funds they have earmarked for retirement will be sufficient to support their desired lifestyle.

Celebrating its 150th anniversary, financial and business advisory experts Armstrong Watson, the largest independent business of its kind across Yorkshire, Cumbria and Scotland, says the information helps family businesses plan for the future.

Paul Dickson, the managing partner of Armstrong Watson, said: “By understanding the current thinking within UK family businesses, we are able to ensure more businesses are protected, survival rates increase and, perhaps most importantly, they continue to prosper.”

As part of its work with family businesses, Armstrong Watson is also pioneering a Family Business Portrait project with award-winning professional artist Helen Perkins as part of its work to highlight the valued contribution family businesses make to the economy. The initiative has so far featured Yorkshire business leaders William Whitaker of Whitakers Chocolates Ltd, Skipton, and Mark Sugden of John W Laycock Ltd, Keighley.

Armstrong Watson is also organising the second Business Improvement Programme event, working in partnership with Australian business mentor Alec Blacklaw, after a highly successful inaugural event held at Wood Hall Hotel and Spa, Wetherby in November.

Bookings are being taken now for the two-day course which will be held at Armathwaite Hall, Cumbria in May with a broad range of businesses from Yorkshire and the rest of the north of England due to be represented.

Photo shows: A welder at John W Laycock in Keighley, one of the family businesses that took part in the survey

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