Irish family businesses most at risk from digital disruption

30 Jan 2019

From left: Tom Shipsey, Stonehouse Marketing; Frances McArdle, Height for Hire; Liz McCarthy, Dogpatch Labs; and John Dillon, PwC. Image: Maxwell Photography

As well as being slow to change or plan for the future, family firms offer themselves as rich pickings for cybercriminals.

As many as 40pc of Irish family businesses feel vulnerable to digital disruption and more than half (54pc) feel vulnerable to cyberattacks, according to new research from accounting giant PwC.

Its Irish Family Business Report 2019 shows family enterprises are adrift in a sea of confusion when it comes to thriving in the digital economy.

‘Adopting an active stance towards business and family values generates real benefits that pay off in real terms’

They also feel vulnerable to the effects of Brexit, but just 14pc expect to have significantly changed their business models in two years’ time compared with 20pc globally.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

As well as floundering with new technology, strategic planning remains a blind spot and 64pc do not have a formalised strategic plan compared with 51pc globally.

The single key challenge holding up future growth, according to the survey, is Brexit (58pc), with Irish family businesses being much more concerned than global businesses (11pc).

More than half (53pc) plan to pass on management and/or ownership to the next generation (NextGen) but a third (34pc) of these have not engaged NextGens in preparing for these changes.

Ambitious future

While internal resources and bank lending are still the most popular sources of funding for Irish family businesses, more than one-third (36pc) reported that they would consider private equity to help fund the business (compared to 39pc globally).

Ireland is doing slightly better than global counterparts on certain areas of diversity. For example, 25pc of board members are women (compared to 21pc globally) and 28pc of management teams are women (24pc globally).

“The survey confirms that Irish family businesses, despite external risks, are ambitious for the future,” said John Dillon, PwC entrepreneurial and private business leader.

“The message from the survey is clear: adopting an active stance towards business and family values generates real benefits that pay off in real terms.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years