Defined – at this stage – simply as an organization in which decision-making is infl uenced by multiple generations of a family, family businesses are the oldest and most common form of any business organization. Rather than starting a business from scratch, many entrepreneurs will join a family business and eventually take over the leadership of it. In the UK it is estimated that family fi rms account for two in three private sector enterprises (some three million fi rms), almost half of all mid-sized businesses ($20–50 million turnover), provide two jobs in fi ve in the private sector (employing 9.2 million people) and generate almost a quarter of UK GDP ($1.1 trillion) (Institute for Family Business, 2011). Th eir importance is estimated to be even greater across the EU and the USA. What is more, the stereotypical image of the family living above the shop does not do the sector credit. Th ey are not all small, lifestyle fi rms. Family-owned companies account for a substantial proportion of the value of the stock market. In the USA, family fi rms – where family members own more than a quarter of the shares – represent more than a third of the Fortune 500 (Clark, 2014). In Europe the pattern is similar. But most family fi rms – of any size – are privately owned or family controlled and the family have a strong hand in infl uencing management decision-making.
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