The importance of family businesses should never be underestimated. They are often ignored by policymakers in Westminster in spite of the fact that there are 4.8 million family businesses in the UK employing 12.2 million people, which is around 38% of the working population. They form a vital part of the UK economy, contributing £149 billion to the Exchequer every year; that’s 21% of all taxes paid to the Exchequer – just from family businesses!

Family businesses operate in every sector of the economy, from hospitality to financial services, from real estate to retail, from agriculture to construction. In the manufacturing sector, there are over 235,000 family firms employing over 1 million people, quite often in well-paid skilled or semi-skilled jobs that add real value to the national economy.

Take JCB for example. We design, engineer and manufacture construction equipment and agricultural machinery in Staffordshire, using components manufactured in every region of the UK; axles, gearboxes and engines from our own component factories in Wales and the East Midlands; metal fabrications from the West Midlands, North West and North East, engine components and harnesses from the East of England, hydraulic pipework from the South West and hydraulic motors from Scotland. Many of these suppliers to my family business are themselves family businesses, a vital part of a supply chain that often ends with JCB supplying machinery to other family firms in the agriculture and construction sectors – and not just here in the UK, but in export markets as well.

“There are 4.8 million family businesses in the UK employing 12.2 million people, and around 38% of the working population. 21% of all taxes paid to the Exchequer come from family businesses!”

JCB is a large family manufacturing business but there are many, much smaller family-run manufacturing businesses that face exactly the same issues as JCB, such as the need for help to enter new markets or securing support for innovative R&D projects or new product introductions.

Family businesses need to be listened to more. The first step, of course, is for family businesses to make their voices heard and where better to start than with manufacturers blowing their own trumpets about the great products they make and the interesting applications for these products. Unlike service businesses, manufacturers have something very tangible to show off to the world.

Family-run manufacturing businesses are not second-class citizens relative to the big corporations. Our achievements are no less important and we deserve to have our voice heard in the corridors of power. We contribute so much to the UK economy, with little acknowledgement, and add so much value to society – family businesses are too important to be ignored.

This section in the UK Manufacturing Review showcases JCB and two other great exemplars of family manufacturing firms that are members of the Institute for Family Business. We hope everyone will take greater interest in the family business sector.