Family Owned Businesses May Spur State's Economic Recovery

A hint of optimism goes a long way.  At least that’s the hope of Connecticut’s small businesses heading into 2013.  A new survey has found almost two-thirds of respondents project sales and revenue growth next year, which, if realized, could be just the boost the state’s economy needs. That growth is increasingly coming from beyond the state’s borders, the survey found.  While 47% of family businesses surveyed identify Connecticut sales as their greatest source of growth, 42% trace the majority of their revenue to other U.S. states, and 11% to international sales. This represents a significant shift from as recently as 2009, when 59% said Connecticut was their largest customer base and only 2% reported international sales as their greatest source of revenue.

The 2012 Survey of Connecticut Businesses, produced by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association and the University of New Haven’s Center for Family Business, highlights the challenges, concerns, and growth prospects a critical sector of the state’s economy.  Almost half of the businesses surveyed said their workforces will remain stable, while 43% plan on hiring new employees in 2013. In addition, many said they anticipated making significant investments in equipment, IT systems, facilities, and training.

Industries represented in the survey included manufacturing, services, retailing, construction, finance, insurance, real estate, wholesale trade, transportation, communications, and utility services.  Many cited the high cost of doing business in Connecticut as the single greatest obstacle to growth.  A lack of skilled workers, particularly in computer/IT knowledge, engineering and mechanical skills, and management and leadership also were noted as ongoing concerns.

Employment looks brighter in 2013: in addition to 43% of family busi­nesses planing  on hiring new employees in 2013 (compared to 30% in 2012), nearly half (48%) expect no change in their company size in 2013. Only 9% expect a decrease in their workforce in 2013, compared with 13% in 2012.The survey questionnaire was emailed to top executives at 3,000 family companies in August 2012. There were 580 responses, for a response rate of 19.3%, and a +/- 4.15% margin of error.

The average tenure for employees at Connecticut’s family businesses is 20.2 years for family members and 12.7 years for non-family members—both substantially higher than the national average for employees overall (4.6 years as of January 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Family businesses are vital to their communities and to the economy. The survey found that more than three-quarters of family business owners (77%) consider it important or very im­portant that they leave a positive, lasting legacy, and 53% intend to pass their business on to the next generation.

Overall, family businesses comprise 80%−90% of all businesses in North America, contributing 64% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), employing 62% of the U.S. workforce, and outperforming non-family firms on measures such as operating return on assets.

The 2012 Survey of Connecticut Businesses is part of CBIA’s Family Business Program, an initiative designed to support and grow the state’s thousands of family businesses.  Sponsored by CohnReznick, First Niagara Bank, and Reid and Riege PC, the program features forums and networking opportunities where business leaders can discuss solutions to issues ranging from family governance to succession planning.