Family-Owned Businesses Hiring, Despite Tough Times

Despite the continued shaky economy, family-owned businesses are enthusiastic about their prospects for 2012, new research shows.

Conducted by the nonprofit organization Family Enterprise USA, the study revealed family firms are particularly optimistic when it comes to hiring in the coming year. More than half of those surveyed intend to add more employees over the next 12 months, with only 8 percent planning a reduction in the workforce.

The hiring increase comes amid revenue losses for a number of family-owned businesses. Although 50 percent of the business surveyed saw flat or lower revenue as a result of the recession, only 34 percent have reduced their workforce.

Many older firms exhibited strength in the face of a tough recession, the study found.  One-third of those in business between 60 and 100 years increased their workforce over the last couple of years. Stable leadership in family-owned businesses also has helped many long-running businesses weather the tough economy, the research shows. More than one-third of the companies that have been in business at least 60 years have had the same executive running the company for more than two decades.

Ann Kinkade, president of Family Enterprise USA, said because of their focus on long-term, sustainable growth, family-owned businesses are committed to their employees and communities over time.

"Family firms have leadership tenure four to five times longer than shareholder-controlled businesses," Kinkade said.  "They also have greater workforce stability and are more likely to hire and retain employees in the face of a tough economy."

The research also examined family-owned businesses' views on special tax breaks and short-term stimulus.  More than half of those surveyed favored long-term predictability over more favorable short-term tax provisions when it comes to the tax code.

Uncertainty in the tax code and in government regulations is keeping many businesses from hiring. More than 40 percent of family firms said it was the biggest impediment to job growth.

The new health care law is also of concern, with 61 percent of family-owned businesses believing the new law will result in higher premiums that make it harder to pay for employee health care.

The 2012 Annual Family Enterprise USA study was based on surveys of 300 executive-level officials from family firms in more than a dozen different industry sectors, including manufacturing, finance, construction, retail and wholesale trade, restaurants and agriculture.

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years working as a newspaper reporter and now works as a freelance business and technology reporter. You can reach him at or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.

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