S'pore family businesses upbeat on growth for next 5 years

S'pore family businesses upbeat on growth for next 5 years

Family businesses in Singapore are a resilient lot. Well over half - 58 per cent - have managed to grow sales in the past year despite the weak economy, according to a recent survey.

Encouraged by this robust showing, virtually all family businesses here expect steady or aggressive growth for the next five years.

The findings were based on PwC's 2012 family business survey which polled 1,952 family business executives from 28 countries worldwide. About 50 executives in Singapore were interviewed for the survey between July and September.

Challenges persist. Family businesses face difficulties hiring skilled staff and planning for succession.

Another obstacle is access to finance, said Mr Ng Siew Quan, PwC Singapore's private client services leader, in a statement.

While the key issues facing family businesses here are similar to those faced around the world, staff recruitment seems to be a bigger challenge here.

When it comes to external factors affecting market conditions, Singapore's executives are less fazed with 38 per cent of respondents saying it was a key challenge as opposed to 54 per cent globally.

Succession planning is a headache, compounded by family conflicts and politics and the need to attract and motivate non-family staff.

The survey revealed some worrying statistics, more so because family feuds can ruin businesses.

Just 36 per cent of the family businesses here have drawn up a shareholders' agreement, while 32 per cent have no procedures in place to deal with conflict.

"Apart from being good business sense, it is also a matter of good corporate governance for this group of businesses to implement procedures that address family conflict," said Mr Ng.

Family businesses here are more likely to sell or list their business than those across the world. Such inclinations may be driven by circumstances. One of the main reasons for not passing the business on to the next generation is a lack of interest from the younger set.

The survey found family businesses believe they enjoy certain advantages such as quick decision making, flexibility, and a strong sense of personal ownership.

They also believe they have developed a stronger set of values than other businesses. For example, they battle to retain staff even in bad times, and show a strong commitment to community issues.

Globally, family businesses are thriving with 65 per cent having grown sales in the past year, compared with less than half in 2010.

The sales growth has been particularly strong in Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.

anitag@sph.com.sg

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