Death of family business

  • More than a quarter (29 per cent) of family business owners are concerned their company will die out when they retire
  • One in five believe it is unlikely any family businesses will exist in future
  • 18,020 businesses are listed on Companies House with ‘and son’ in the name compared to just 290 with ‘and daughter’

New research by insurance provider Direct Line for Business1 reveals owners of family-run businesses are worried about their companies’ future. Over a quarter (29 per cent) of those operating a family business fear their company will die out when they retire. Many of these business operators (21 per cent) believe it is unlikely any family businesses will exist in future.

Owners of family-run firms don’t believe younger generations necessarily have the desire to take on running family businesses. A third of (33 per cent) of these business operators believe family members are not as interested in pursuing the family business as they were in former generations. One reason for this could be that Gen Z are more interested in starting their own enterprises as research shows that one in seven (15 per cent) university undergraduates is planning to embrace entrepreneurialism and start their own company after graduating2.

Interestingly, a third of family business owners (33 per cent) admit that what keeps them up at night is the thought that younger generations would make changes to the business that they themselves wouldn’t agree to.

 Table one: Concerns for family business owners 


Percentage of family business owners who have this concern

My family will not have the necessary skill / ambition to continue the business

38 per cent

Young people are not as interested in pursuing the family business as they were in former generations

33 per cent

I’m worried that young generations will make changes to the business that I wouldn’t agree to

33 per cent

Inheritance tax rules make it very difficult to pass on a family business

33 per cent

My family business will die out after I retire

29 per cent

It is unlikely that any family businesses will exist in future

21 per cent

Source: Direct Line for Business, 2017

A third (33 per cent) of family business owners also disagree with the inheritance tax rules that they believe unfairly penalises those seeking to pass on their business as a legacy to the next generation.

When it comes to naming a company, there are 18,341 family businesses registered with Companies House3. The clear majority (18,020) are listed as ‘and son’, with just 290 listed as ‘and daughter’ and even fewer (15) listed as ‘and son and daughter’; ‘and grandson’ (14) or ‘and granddaughter’ (two).

Jane Guaschi, Business Manager at Direct Line for Business, said:“Family businesses are a huge contributor to the UK economy and it’s great to see so many companies feature relations working together to generate an income. We would hope to see more ‘and daughter’ businesses in the future as more women take on senior roles in a variety of industries.

“Family businesses offer unique opportunities for the next generations, as they are often able to gain valuable experience at a young age. Future proofing can, however be difficult, so a succession plan is essential. It’s also important to remember that if you run a business and employ people then you may need to have Employers' Liability insurance. It’s essential to understand your responsibility under the Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 (ELCA). The full ELCA guide can be downloaded here and includes details of what counts as an 'employee' and explains which organisations that are exempt”.

The construction industry has the highest volume of businesses (25 per cent) highlighting the family roots with an ‘and’ relative included in the business name. Wholesale and retail trades come in second (15 per cent), with agriculture, forestry, fishing and manufacturing (eight per cent) joint third.

On a regional level, London has the highest proportion of businesses with an ‘and’ relative listed in the name (14 per cent), followed by the East of England (13 per cent). The North East and Northern Ireland have the lowest proportion (three per cent each).


                                                Table two: Regional breakdown of businesses with ‘and family member’ in the name


Number of businesses with ‘and’ family member in the name

Percentage of all ‘and’ family member businesses




East of England



North West



South West



South East



Yorks & Humberside



West Midlands






East Midlands






Northern Ireland



North East






Grand Total



 Source: Direct Line for Business, 2017

Across the UK, more than a quarter (28 per cent) of those who own small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) employ family members1, with one in seven (14 per cent) currently doing so on a full-time basis and one in 12 (eight per cent) doing so on a part time basis. A further one in 12 (eight per cent) plan to hire a family member in the future, potentially when they reach a suitable age or level of experience.

According to the Institute for Family Business4, family run companies contribute £460 billion to the UK’s GDP, employ over 12 million people and contribute £133 billion to the UK government in tax revenues.

For more information on small business insurance, visit


Notes to Editors

1 Research conducted by 3Gem among key decision makers at 100 UK SMEs between 21st and 23rd August 2017

2 Research conducted by YouthSight in May 2015 amongst a representative sample of 1006 undergraduate students

3 Analysis conducted using information from Companies House

For further information please contact:

Citigate Dewe Rogerson

Antonia Green

Tel: 020 7282 2967

Email: [email protected]

Direct Line for Business

Jade Trimbee

PR Manager

Tel: 01372 839 452

Mobile: 07825 315 931

Email: [email protected]

Direct Line for Business

Launched in 2007 Direct Line for Business provides a range of insurance products for the small business sector direct by phone and online.

Direct Line for Business insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line for Business and U K Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line for Business products or get a quote by calling 0345 301 4827 or visiting