Family Business Q&A with Charlotte Perkins

We speak with Charlotte Perkins about the Midlands Family Business Awards and all things family business...

What is the idea behind the awards?

My sister Annabel and I created the Awards eight years ago, our aims have always been simply to celebrate the successes of our region’s family businesses and to play our part in creating a community of likeminded and supportive individuals. 

Family businesses play a crucial role in our economy and we are not always very good at talking about our successes; the Awards are a way of helping shine a light on their achievements. It has always been very important to us that the Awards are a not-for-profit initiative, completely free to enter and with an independent judging panel to decide the winners and highly commended in our 10 Award categories.

Our day job isn’t organising awards – we are the third generation of our family to run Wilsons and we’ve been in business for over 100 years, providing insurance and and financial advice to businesses and individuals across the UK. Many of our clients are family owned and run businesses and we thoroughly enjoy working with them.

What contribution do family businesses make to the economy?

Family businesses are the backbone of the UK economy, the bedrock of the Midlands’ economy, and exhibit immense enterprise and sustainability. It makes us proud to be part of such an exceptional sector.

Family businesses not only make a huge contribution to the UK economy, but also to their local communities. In the East Midlands, where we are based, we have the highest concentration of family firms in the UK with over 75% of businesses being family owned and run. We know of many employing generations of the same family and with the inherent family values they are a great place to work. We also find that family businesses have a fantastic sense of Corporate Social Responsibility and, although sometimes not formally documented as in larger corporates, their communities benefit greatly from their engagement with local charities and community groups.

What makes a good family business?

Family businesses come in all shapes and sizes and there are a number of factors that can determine what makes a good family business – that’s why our Awards judging panels have such a tough task every year! Product and service development, financial growth and success, family representation, people development, innovation, overcoming adversity, commitment to the community, succession planning and governance are all factors. However, at the core you will always find strong family values, what some call the ‘family factor’. 

Balancing the interests of the family with the interests of the business can be challenging and although many family businesses are reluctant to bring in non-family members to senior roles, professionalising the family business is now recognised as a key factor in long term success.

Are there any golden rules that can help improve their chances of success?

Today’s business landscape is ever changing with digital developments transforming the way we live and work. To be successful you need not only to have a culture of innovation, but also be able to adapt quickly - both the structure and financing of family businesses provides many of them with the opportunity to achieve this. 

Succession has always been a major issue for many family businesses, it is certainly a factor in determining their level of success and longevity. Engaging the next generation is as important as ever as Millennials have a very different outlook on many aspects that can make a significant difference to the family business – their understanding of digital, work life balance and brand can be hugely beneficial in driving forward the family business and ensuring both its sustainability and long term growth and success.

What would you class as great examples of well known and well run family businesses?

We can all name a few great family businesses, whether it’s a small local firm that your family have always used or brands that you always buy. The one thing they tend to have in common is trust, and we are all now far more likely to engage with those businesses and brands that demonstrate similar values to our own.

More surprising are the businesses we come across in every year of the Awards where we had no idea they were family owned and run – there are a huge number of us out there! Many are surprised to find the President of Speedo International leading one of our judging panels, but it sits alongside Hunter and Berghaus as one of the many successful brands owned by the Pentland Group, a remarkable family business that have supported the Awards since their inception.

We also see new family businesses created each year by exceptional entrepreneurs who can see the future and are helping to reshape it, and through their entrepreneurial spirit are creating a legacy for the next generation. Great news for the UK economy and our local communities.

Charlotte Perkins
Group MD - The Wilson Organisation
Co-founder of the Midlands Family Business Awards

Our 2023 Winners

The results are in...