Media Release: New inter-generational study aims to help Scottish family businesses

FAMILY businesses throughout Scotland are participating in a new study to explore the wider business experience which lies within family-owned firms and the benefits that can be drawn for economic stability and success.

The Scottish Family Business Association (SFBA) in conjunction with the Scottish Centre for Inter-generational Practice and Queen Margaret University, is hosting six roundtable events during October and November with representatives from different generations of families, sectors and sizes of business. Topics for discussion will include: how to engage the next generation; what expertise exists and can be harnessed; what are the common challenges and opportunities which exist between the generations.

Claire Seaman, academic director for management and enterprise at Queen Margaret University Edinburgh, says the inter-generational study is expected to yield important insights into the conditions, skill sets and roles family businesses employ.

“When we look at a business without a family link we can estimate the expertise available by looking at who is on the payroll. When it’s a family business, estimating this level of expertise and the skill sets available becomes much more difficult. Families tend to draw on the wider pool of expertise within the family – not just those who work in the business on a day-to-day basis.”

Ms Seaman continued: “And yet, we do know that the wide range of resources that family businesses can draw on is significant. This was powerfully illustrated to me recently during a conversation with a family business director whose retired father was coming back into the business to share his experience of managing a recession, because the current MD had no or little experience in this area.”

Encouraging different generations to work more collaboratively is part of the remit of the Scottish Centre for Inter-generational Practice. According to the Centre’s director, Brian McKechnie, 15 years from now, 50 per cent of the working population will be over 50 years of age which poses some serious questions for the Scottish economy.

“The demographics of Scotland are changing. People are living longer, having fewer children and there is a genuine concern about the increasing polarisation between the younger and older generation.

“In the workplace there are real benefits to be gained from combining the knowledge and experience of the older generation with the energy and new ideas presented by the younger generation. How family businesses continue to succeed and how they address these inter-generational issues will be an important area we will be exploring.”

He added: “There are 60,000 family businesses in Scotland representing 60-75 per cent of all enterprises in Scotland; therefore, understanding the answers to some of these important questions have significant implications for jobs creation, training, education, as well as the stability and economic growth of our country.”

SFBA chief executive, Martin Stepek, whose family business, J Stepek Ltd, was one of Lanarkshire’s best-known employers, with 350 staff and 22 stores across West and Central Scotland said the research was well timed.

“Family business provide solidity, continuity and security in an age of rapid change, insecurity and uncertainty which is why now, more than ever, we need to fully understand what makes family businesses tick and how we can harness inter-generational learning in family businesses to encourage positive social change and economic growth.”

The research findings will be published early next year. Anyone interested in hearing more details or participating in the research should contact the SFBA on t. 01698 723346 or email


Issued by Panache Communications on behalf of the SFBA. For further information please contact Jen Nash, Panache Communications tel 07971 466220 Email


The Scottish Family Business Association was incorporated in September 2005 and is a non profit-making organisation run for and by business families. 73 per cent of family businesses want to keep the business in family hands from one generation to another yet only 33 per cent make it to the second generation and nine per cent to the third – cumulatively a massive loss to the economy, to local communities and to national progress. SFBA aim to ensure that family businesses and business families can get access to the support, education, training and professional advice specific to their distinctive model of business, to help them to realise their full potential for the benefit of the economy and communities of Scotland and beyond.

Claire Seaman is academic director (Management and Enterprise) School of Business, Enterprise and Management Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh EH21 6UU

For more information about her contribution to the reference work, Cultural Implications of Knowledge Sharing, Management and Transfer:

Identifying Competitive Advantage, please visit”

For information about her contributions to the Encyclopaedia of Business in Today’s World please visit

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Contact: Jen Nash
Phone: 07971 466 220