For family businesses, the last year and a half has brought a unique set of challenges. Coping with Covid has been a burden that none could have predicted and the on-going impact of the pandemic is continuing to cause issues that will take some time to resolve.
Yet far from being overwhelmed by the burdens that have been placed upon them, many family businesses have risen to the challenge and are emerging stronger and more focused on the future.
On Wednesday, 8 December the best of these outstanding performers will be recognised during The Herald Scottish Family Business Awards, in association with Business Gateway.
It is two years since these awards last took place and ten years since they were launched and in that time a great deal has changed, but the diverse and dynamic family business sector remains the backbone of the Scottish economy.
This year the awards will recognise excellence in 12 different categories, including Scottish Family Business of the Year (large), supported by Azets UK; Fastest Growing Family Business Award, supported by Business Gateway; Rural Family Business of the Year, supported by Family Business Solutions Ltd.
Billy Andrew, Consultant at Family Business Solutions Ltd said: “The Herald Family Business Awards is always a quality event and we are pleased to be a category sponsor.
“The Rural Family Business Award recognises many and diverse family businesses, their challenges and achievements. It is a business community where FBS have real history and connection.”
And Hugh Lightbody, Chief Officer, Business Gateway National Unit, said:“These awards will give us a chance to recognise the contribution of family businesses across all sectors over the last twelve months, and reward their incredible efforts during multiple lockdowns and ongoing restrictions.
“Family-run small businesses make up a critical part of the Scottish economy, and as we move forward from the pandemic, their role will become even more important as attention turns towards recovery.
There is also an Outstanding Contribution award, supported by Strathclyde Business School and John Anderson Head of SME Growth & Board Development said: “As Scotland’s leading business school, Strathclyde Business School is committed to the development of family businesses and is delighted to be part of the Scottish Family Business Awards once again. It is the highlight of the family business year and great to be back.
“At the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship within the Business School, we use our experience as family business researchers to inform economic policy and, with our unique Growth Advantage Programme, provide practical, accessible and useful learning so that Scotland’s family businesses can continue to be the real wealth creators in Scotland – creating employment and prosperity for our communities. Our recently launched Centre for Board & Director Development will provide a focal point for the development of directors and future leaders and is developing specific programmes for the boards and leaders of family businesses in partnership with the Institute of Directors and leading family business practitioners.”
In 2019 the Outstanding Contribution accolade went to James Donaldson & Sons, a firm of timber merchants that was founded in 1860 in Tayport in Fife and is now one of the UK’s largest in its sector with over 900 employees across 31 sites and annual sales approaching £200 million.
In presenting them with their award, the judges praised the company’s entrepreneurial mindset and innovation, aligned to careful stewardship, which has made it a continuing success.
Mike Donaldson, chairman, is the sixth generation of his family to be involved in the business and he says winning the Outstanding Contribution award was a great honour and one, which he says was the culmination of hard work on behalf of many people within the firm.
The key, he says, to running a family business, even one of the size of James Donaldson & Sons, is to put people first.
“Where it is customers or colleagues then if you treat them with respect then they will want to deal with you or work with the business and much of the rest will then take care of itself.”
During the pandemic James Donaldson & Sons was one of the first in the sector to shut down and amongst the last to open as it concentrated on keeping its workforce safe, but since then it has thrived despite the challenges that it has faced.
“We are fortunate that the Government made construction and manufacturing a key priority, but on top of that we launched two e-commerce websites, which we probably would not have done at this stage if it hadn’t been for the pandemic.”
And Mike believes that it is those family businesses that have grasped the opportunities presented by technology that will continue to do well in the future.
“Often it is the younger family members, who are more tech savvy, who have taken the lead here and shown what they are capable of achieving.”
On the other hand, while diversifying can have its benefits, it can prove to be a distraction from the job in hand.
“You have got to identify your core business and concentrate on doing that really well.”
And while the pandemic may have been a challenge, it will also have encouraged good family businesses to do even better.
“I know that we came out of the financial crash of 2008 in a stronger position and we have done the same this time round.”
The Herald Family Business Awards in association with Business Gateway will take place on Wednesday, 8 December.
For full details on how to enter visit: