A nationwide tour of Britain’s most successful family businesses got under way in Huddersfield.
Independent motor dealership Hepworth Honda was the starting point for the tour of 39 high-flying family firms by Close Brothers Asset Management in partnership with Family Business United.
The two-week road trip aims to highlight the vital role played by family businesses, which account for 3m firms – two out of three companies in the private sector – have combined turnover of £1.1 trillion and employ more than 9m people. Yorkshire alone has 213,251 family businesses, making up 63.5% of private sector businesses in the region.
To get the tour under way, Penny Lovell, head of private client services at Close Brothers Asset Management, and Paul Andrews, founder and managing director of Family Business United, met Hepworth Honda managing director Stephen Brighton at the firm’s Leeds Road showrooms. Stephen has also provided the car for the UK tour.
Stephen outlined his company’s history from his father founding the business in 1970 in Kirkburton to its move to Queen Street South in 1984 and relocation to its Leeds Road site in 2005. The company now employs 30 people and also has sites in Halifax and Leeds.
Stephen joined the firm in May, 1985, after studying at Sheffield Polytechnic and did the bookkeeping for a while before getting gradually more involved in the running of the business.
He said: “My father was of the entrepreneurial generation and I am of the managerial generation. Today, we are one of only three family firms in our sector. The industry in this town is now dominated by the big plcs or regional groups. It has changed over time.”
Stephen said: “The reason we have been Honda dealers for 35 years is down to customer service and continuity. We have a technician who has been with us for 35 years and a number of staff who have been with us 20 to 25 years. Customers like that continuity. People like working for us and enjoy working here because there is a family feel.”
He said: “Like all good family businesses, we care too much! The British car market has survived because the standard of dealers is much higher than in Europe. If the customer wants a red car, I’m not going to make him or her have a blue car, I would rather pay to get the red car – and a happy customer.”
But Stephen also spoke about the issues that affected people running family businesses, including the complexities of new rules governing matters such as workplace pensions, succession planning and taking care to secure their own financial future.
Penny said many family firms lacked information about these and other issues, including some of the benefits available.
She said: “Family businesses are a key driver of the economy and we look forward to meeting some of Yorkshire’s most successful firms.
“In recent months, together with a strengthening economy, financial directors have seen a wave of Budget changes. Sound financial planning advice can support family firms in taking advantage of these opportunities. Increased ISA allowances, tax incentives for investment and auto-enrolment pension schemes are all areas where we at Close Brothers can provide support and clarity.”
The first day of the tour also included visits to Denby Dale ice cream firm Yummy Yorkshire and Aspley-based Ellis Furniture.
Paul Andrews said: “Family firms are the very backbone of the UK economy, and throughout May we will be meeting with some of the best known family businesses in the UK, as well as some lesser-known hidden gems.
“We want to celebrate the businesses that do so much for the country, by helping them to link up and share the knowledge and experience of other family businesses, as well as having access to advice from experts from Close Brothers Asset Management who are committed to helping family businesses shine.”
The Family Business Road Trip 2014 can be followed on Twitter by using #FBRoadtrip. Close Brothers runs a LinkedIn forum sharing insights into family businesses for owners and their advisers. Search for ‘Family Business Insight’ on LinkedIn.
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