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Children from entrepreneurial families would rather start their own business

Daughters less likely than sons to take over the family business

Children from families that own a business would rather start their own than take over from their parents, according to research by HSG’s Center for Family Business and EY.

The survey, which interviewed 31,000 children from entrepreneurial families across 34 countries, found that that in the UK 20.9% of children would become a successor – much higher than the average of 10.4%, but only 3.9% said they would within five years of graduation.

Elsewhere in Europe the figures for Germany and Austria were very similar for students succeeding their parents at some point, 4.2% and 3.4% respectively, and taking over within five years of graduation, 11.2% and 12.6%. Only 3.9% of those interviewed in Switzerland would consider doing either.

One possible explanation for the shift in attitudes is that there are now more numerous and attractive options in the global job market. The last few years have seen a decline in succession intentions of 30% among students from universities who participated in the study.

The most popular reasons for not wanting to takeover the family business were aspiring to have a career as an employee (60%), while more than a third want to start a business of their own.

On average, daughters have lower succession intentions than sons with an average of 25%, even if the business is run by their mother. Children who gain work experience in the family business are more likely to succeed, but if this does not happen by a certain point, intentions get weaker.

Philipp Sieger, the survey’s project leader, commented: “There is a relatively favorable time for a succession solution. But if a child of an entrepreneur is denied the actual succession for too long, this can be interpreted as a lack of trust, which makes other career options seem more attractive”.

Professor Thomas Zellweger, the study’s co-author, said: “Many children of entrepreneurs want to become entrepreneurially active, but generally not in their parents’ business”.

Henry Williams
Henry Williams

Henry has been writing for since 2015, covering everything from business finance and web builders to tax and red tape. He’s also contributed to many of our industry-renowned annual indexes, including Startups 100 and Young Guns, and created a number of the site’s popular how to guides. Before joining the team, he reviewed films for a culture website, and still harbours ambitions of being a screenwriter.


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