The Connecticut Business and Industry Association is set to release a raft of family business survey findings next week.
Peter Gioia, the CBIA’s vice president and economist, offered a preview of the findings Thursday night, Oct. 10., at the second annual Family-Owned Business Awards in Greenwich, which the CBIA presented in conjunction with the Fairfield County Business Journal and its sister publication, WAG magazine.
Prior to delivering the facts, Gioia offered the asterisk the figures were not yet finalized. “They need one more set of eyes,” he said. Survey sponsors included First Niagara, Reid & Riege Counselors at Law and accounting, tax and advisory firm Cohn Reznick.
“Through the Family Business Survey we learn more about the importance of family businesses,” Gioia said, addressing a crowd of 100 at the Arthur Murray Grande Ballroom. “But, also, we have policymakers who need to be informed.”
Gioia threw a rock at the perception of “cold-hearted corporate chieftains who have an adversarial relationship with their employees.” Rather, he said, family businesses – some 80 percent of all businesses – “tend to treat employees like family.”
Regarding those family businesses, the 2013 family business survey data offer a portrait of resilient, long-serving business relationships among family members. Sixty-three percent of respondents have two generations working and 12 percent have three generations. One percent have four generations involved. (One company on hand when Gioia spoke, Westport-based Gault Energy and Stone, is fifth generation.)
Other preliminary findings of the CBIA survey included:
“Skills shortage” was cited by 17 percent of respondents as their “greatest human resource challenge over the next five years,” followed in close succession by developing leadership (16 percent); implementing Obamacare (15 percent); and work force shortage (14 percent). Meantime, conflicts among family members was a low-wattage problem (6 percent).
With multiple responses permitted, 68 percent of family-owned businesses are parent-child; followed in descending order by siblings (44 percent); spouses (38 percent); cousins, aunts and uncles (23 percent); and in-laws (9 percent).
Succession issues met divided survey answers: 58 percent plan to pass on the business to other family members and 42 percent will look to fresh blood.
As for training, the survey found 35 percent hoping for greater tech skills among their top training and development challenges in the next five years. That figure dwarfed leadership skills, which were the No. 2 concern (18 percent).
The survey offers a snapshot of services as family business owners see them. Accountants are the most trusted advisers according to 44 percent of respondents, followed by their lawyers (32 percent). Bankers (5 percent)were held in the lowest esteem, trailing consultants (14 percent); wealth advisers (13 percent); and insurance brokers (9 percent).
Fully 75 percent of respondents said their family-work relationships are either balanced or well balanced. Only 3 percent found the balance of work and family “very difficult.”
A final question could have been germane to any enterprise: “Do you think Connecticut is friendly to your business?” The nays were 90 percent and the yeas were 10 percent.