The Scottish Family Business Association was founded in January 2006 by eight family business leaders as a charity to help improve the potential of our family businesses and the lives of all those involved in them. We knew from personal experience that almost none of the normal infrastructure that helps business existed for the unique form that is family business. Students at business courses were given little or no information about family businesses. Lawyers, accountants, bankers had little opportunity to learn how to best advise those who led family businesses. Government at all levels - EU, UK, Scotland, and regional - made barely any reference to the sector; their economic development and regeneration strategies did not take into account the importance of family businesses to the country. The media's representation of family businesses either exaggerated the Dallas-type feuding in family enterprises or ignored them completely. Finally the family business owners and leaders themselves had little or no understanding of the unique and challenging issues that the sector faces, and thus didn't prepare for eventualities.
We recognised that it would take a full generation to transform the lamentable lack of support that existed in 2006. As I write this in early 2013 the situation is much improved thanks to our efforts and those who support our work. Around half of our universities now teach modules on family businesses, including a module on giving legal advice to family enterprises as part of the University of Strathclyde Law School Diploma in Legal Practice. We have raised awareness of the need for professional advisors to learn how to advise their family business clients, and have instigated ground-breaking research and training in this area. Hundreds of advisors now know that their family business clients require a different and more complex approach than other clients. Family businesses, and individuals within these firms, have thanked us for helping them to resolve complex and often painful issues that threatened to bring down the business and destroy the family harmony. We have put the positive case for family businesses to the media, featuring on the BBC and STV, Radio 4, Radio 5 Live, Radio Scotland, plus The Herald., Scotsman, Press and Journal, CA Magazine, Law Society Journal and other magazines. We have tried to educate and inspire government and their agencies, sadly with mixed results, but still we try! Seven years on we see blue skies for the huge family business sector in Scotland. However we are still clear that it will take a full generation to effect the transformation we need in Scotland to enable all of our family businesses to flourish and bring to Scotland all the benefits that we know they can deliver.