New Online Family Business Community Launched

New Online Family Business Community Launched

New digital platform allows NI family businesses to support each other as landmark survey reveals 90% fear loss of revenue

Northern Ireland’s family businesses are standing firm in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, according to a new landmark survey undertaken on behalf of Harbinson Mulholland and  the Northern Ireland Family Business Forum.

The Family Business Survival Survey has been carried out nearly six months into the Covid-19 lockdown with the first results being released to coincide with National Family Business Day (23rd September).

The survey is complemented by the launch of a new members-only digital platform which aims to bring together Northern Ireland’s family business community at a time when continuing to connect is increasingly important.

Forum Chair Darren McDowell, Senior Partner at Harbinson Mulholland who founded the forum three years ago said that despite lockdown they were continuing to provide members with guidance on resilience, best practice, continuity planning and adaptation tactics.

“The family business sector represents a resilient bunch of people,” he said. “Our mission is to help them acclimatise to the current environment by offering guidance which will help keep them going through the tough times ahead.

“While our events programme has had to go on hold, we are confident the online platform will ensure members have the opportunity to continue to network with each other, share experiences and offer mutual support in an exclusive and private space.”

The Family Business Survival Survey was carried out in partnership with Ulster University Business School and their academic partners Dublin City University and University of Central Florida, who will also be releasing their research from Family Businesses in the Republic of Ireland in the coming weeks.

Ian Smyth from UUBS commented 

“One of the core objectives of the Ulster University Business School  is to ensure that our activities in terms of research are applicable in real world settings and that our stakeholders can accrue tangible benefits from their interaction with our faculty and staff.  The Family Business sector forms the backbone of the local economy and that is why we are partnering with Harbinson Mulholland, Dublin City University and the University of Central Florida in this important survey to assess how family firms are dealing with their own survival at this time.  It is unsurprising that nearly 90% of firms are in some way concerned about loss of revenue and this survey delves deeper into what firm leaders as well as their staff are feeling currently, in order to better provide understanding, advocacy and support for what the sector is going through”.

It reveals that nine out of 10 family businesses are worried about loss of revenue over the next six months. Six out of 10 firms say that insufficient cash flow is their prime concern, while around the same number cite the negative impact on the local economy.

Local companies are less concerned about losing key employees (23%) or loss of business reputation (12%). Significantly, despite the economic challenges which lie ahead, 77% of respondents recorded little concern about the possibility of losing their business, and 69% are comparatively unconcerned about being forced to sell or close their doors.

A whopping seven out of 10 state they are ‘not concerned’ about the potential for family conflict over the next six months, indicating that senior teams are pulling together as Northern Ireland faces its most challenging business climate for 30 years.

Angela Craigan, Partner at Harbinson Mulholland said: “Almost every business we have spoken to is facing disruption due to Covid-19 and it’s clear that family businesses have never been as threatened as they are today.

“Every firm’s struggle is unique - some are fighting to stay alive or managing the implications of a significant revenue decline, while others are dealing with increased demand and stressed supply chains.

“This one-of-a-kind study reveals how they are navigating the global pandemic as well as providing insights into survival strategies which can help businesses continue to operate successfully as we go into 2021 and help sustain these businesses for generations to come”.

In the coming weeks, more results from the survey will be published on the new online community platform, including a unique insight into the employees of family businesses, focusing on their resilience and commitment to family firms in times of crisis.

For further information on how to access the new platform or indeed if you’d like to contribute content or make your voice heard, contact Treena Clarke

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