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Changing face of family businesses include same-sex partners, says report

By Michael Finnigan

An increasing number of family business leaders in same-sex relationships are sharing the responsibilities of the top spot with their partners, according to a new report that explores the changing face of the sector.

The Future Landscape from Families in Business, a UK-based membership and consultancy firm, explores how the changing face of the modern family is mirrored in family businesses, and found that more and more are inviting members of a second family into senior positions.

The annual report, now in its third year, said family businesses leaders in same-sex partnerships could face challenges in succession if they are childless, although many are turning to surrogacy or adoption.

“Traditional family units in business have many tensions around relationships, dynamics and communication and so any additional issues - including second marriages, step children or prejudices - only increase potential challenges,” she said.

Last year, Saveker coined the term “blended family business” in her annual research to describe family businesses that have invited members of a second relationship into senior roles.

Other results from the study suggest that 49% of family business owners want growth, with exit firmly in mind, while 27% strive to “build something” to be handed-on to the next generation. More than a quarter said they most enjoy the lifestyle a family firm affords.

Yet some of the report's findings could be cause for concern, according to Saveker, who said that only 4% of family firms have a robust succession plan, while less than a quarter (19%) have a shareholders' agreement.

She added that almost half of participants (49%) in the study regularly use alcohol or similar substances to cope with the daily pressures of running a family business, with many looking to reduce their level of consumption.

Saveker concluded the report by discussing the growing disconnect between family businesses and their advisors. “Our survey findings point to a need for helping the business to succeed and grow, and not purely with succession in mind, as advisers often seem to be focused upon,” she said.

Family businesses from across the UK took part in the survey, representing all industries and market sectors and ranging from second to tenth generation firms. The average turnover of the 200 firms was £25 million.

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