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PwC Announces New US Family Businesses Survey Results





New York (PRESS RELEASE – November 21, 2010) – PwC US’s latest Family Business Survey finds that US family businesses are poised for post-crisis growth, despite ongoing concern about market conditions. Notably, more US family businesses (88%) are concerned about market conditions than their global counterparts (68%), but they are also more confident about the future.

The optimism of US family businesses is evident in their belief that their core market(s) will improve over the next 12 months – an expectation voiced by 58% of US respondents. Seventy percent say growth and expansion is a chief business strategy for the next 12 months. Most are well-capitalized: 76% of US businesses say they have access to surplus cash, making them well-positioned to execute on their growth strategy. For 30% of respondents, that strategy involves investing abroad.

“As key foreign markets continue to rebound faster than the US market, more family businesses may begin to seek sustainable growth abroad as a way to maintain a competitive advantage,” says Alfred Peguero, PwC’s US Family Offices Services leader. “This is a trend we’ve seen among leading US private companies for the past couple of years. The economic buffer that international investment provides has become increasingly attractive as home-market conditions remain uncertain and domestic growth opportunities stay limited.”

Current challenges

Although market conditions top the list of external challenges that confront US family businesses, government policy is also a considerable challenge, cited by nearly one-third of respondents (76% cite tax policy, in particular, as a concern). Competition, too, is ranked high among challenges, but by fewer respondents than in the previous family business survey, which was conducted in 2007 (21% versus 34%).

Finding qualified workers is the chief internal challenge for US businesses (52%), up from 49% three years ago. In line with their twin objectives of improving productivity and increasing competitiveness over the next 12 months, survey respondents plan to invest more in IT infrastructure, HR/training, sales activity, and marketing. Other internal challenges reported by US family businesses include cash flow / controlling costs (42%) and capacity / meeting orders (37%).

“The challenges confronting family businesses require owners to stay abreast of the changing economic, tax, and legislative environments,” notes Peguero. “Being actively engaged in the business will allow owners to plan for and address oversights that, if ignored, could lead to considerable and unnecessary expense. For instance, family business owners should create ways to attract and retain key talent. As career progression and work/life balance become increasingly important to today’s workforce, companies will need to adjust to meet workers’ expectations.”

Looking ahead

Reservations about the strength of the economy long-term and how well it can sustain family businesses are evident in the declining percentage of family business owners who say they intend to pass their business on to the next generation (55%), down from 72% in 2007. However, only one-quarter anticipate a change in ownership over the next five years. Forty percent of family business owners don’t have a succession plan in place, leaving their businesses vulnerable to conflicts over control.

“In times of economic uncertainty, having a succession plan is critical,” says Peguero. “Timely succession planning protects a business and its value by eliminating potentially disruptive surprises and signaling to key stakeholders that the company has longevity. At PwC, we encourage our clients to develop and communicate a plan to family members sooner rather than later to reduce the likelihood of conflict and facilitate the transition process.”

About the Family Business Survey

The PwC Family Business Survey captures the views of 89 US companies, which were interviewed June through August of 2010 via a 20-minute telephone discussion. The US portion of the survey is one component of PwC’s global survey of over 1,600 companies in 35 countries. The research was coordinated by the PwC International Survey Unit, Belfast, PwC’s global center of excellence in market research, which designed the questionnaire in conjunction with PwC’s family business experts.

About PwC’s Private Company Services

Moving beyond tomorrow’s uncertainty and growing your business matters to you, and to us. Experience what it is like to work with professionals dedicated to serving private companies and their owners. Working with you on both day-to-day and more-complex issues such as compliance, controls, cash flow, expansion, succession, and personal financial matters – this is PwC’s Private Company Services.

You talk, we listen and share insight. We are proud to serve as advisors to more than 60% of America’s Largest Private Companies, collaborating to help you achieve long-term success.

About the PwC Network

PwC firms provide industry-focused assurance, tax and advisory services to enhance value for their clients. More than 161,000 people in 154 countries in firms across the PwC network share their thinking, experience and solutions to develop fresh perspectives and practical advice.

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Marie Hernan



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