Hiring a bigger concern than the pandemic, says central Ohio’s family businesses
The tenth Annual Family Business Forecast survey, conducted by the Conway Center for Family Business, revealed more than one in four (27.4%) Central Ohio family business leaders believe adapting to COVID-19 mandates and restrictions will remain one of their most significant business challenges moving into 2021.
The pandemic contributed to tempered optimism among those surveyed about the economic outlook of both the local and national economy in the new year.
A majority of respondents (76.4%) feel somewhat or very good about the U.S. economic outlook, a fall from 98.3% at this time last year. Those feeling “very good” about the national economy (8.3%) decreased by more than 33 percentage points from 2020 (42.1%).
Similarly, family business leaders are optimistic overall about the business climate in Central Ohio (83.4%), though only 15.3% chose the highest rating of “very good” compared to 56.1% choosing the highest rating at this time last year.
The Conway Center fields the Annual Family Business Forecast to gauge the economic climate – including employment and related challenges – among family businesses in the region.
Family Businesses Planning to Hire Struggle to Find the Right Candidates
Fewer family businesses plan to hire in 2021 as more leaders expressed uncertainty due to COVID-19. While more than half (51.8%) of family business leaders plan to add employees in 2021, a fall from 68.8% last year, 1 in 4 (27.2%) do not yet know if they can hire in the current calendar year.
Despite pandemic concerns, finding qualified workers remains the top business concern among those surveyed (50.7%), followed by ‘securing and maintaining clients’ (32.9%), coronavirus mandates (27.4%) and traditional competition (26.0%).
More than three-fourths (78.9%) of Central Ohio family businesses will look at sales forecasts to determine hiring decisions.
Family-Owned Businesses Remain Resilient, Poised to Drive Job Creation
“Family businesses in Central Ohio were challenged in 2020 in many unexpected ways,” said Bea Wolper, President of the Conway Center for Family Business. “We are impressed by the ingenuity shown by all family businesses to adapt to new market conditions and are encouraged that most family businesses remain optimistic about our region’s economic outlook and plan to hire and grow in 2021.”
Statistics show family businesses account for 64 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, generate 62 percent of the country’s employment, and spur 78 percent of all new job creation.
 Astrachan, J.H. and Shanker, M.C. (2003), Family Businesses’ Contributions to the U.S. Economy: A Closer Look.
“The events of 2020 only strengthened the determination of family businesses as ever to build a thriving and collaborative Central Ohio business environment,” Wolper said. “While finding the right candidates continues to be a significant challenge, local family business leaders have gotten creative to recruit and retain the most skilled and qualified candidates to fill specific roles, especially in skilled trades. For seven consecutive years, this has been the biggest challenge for family businesses in Central Ohio.”
The Conway Center addresses these challenges through educational programs and by tapping service provider experts to help family businesses attract, train, and retain top talent.
Family Business Leaders Weigh-in on Current Issues, Hopeful for Vaccine Distribution
Overwhelmingly, Central Ohio family business leader say distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine will have a positive impact on their business (88.7%). Additionally, more than 6 in 10 (62.5%) Central Ohio family business leaders say the passage of an economic stimulus package will have a positive impact on their business, while almost half (48.6%) of family business leaders say a shift to working from home will have no effect on their business.
Finding Qualified Workers, “The Right Fit” Remain Difficult
Asked about their top hiring challenges, 56.0% of survey respondents cited finding skilled and qualified workers. Finding employees that fit with the company culture (21.3%) is another major challenge.
“Many of our members request programs on recruiting and hiring for the long-term, including creating and nurturing company culture, and leadership development among non-family employees,” said Jill Grube, Conway Center Managing Director. “Our members use all resources available – online job listings, employee referrals, recruiters, internal promotion – to find employees who understand that family businesses work hard and expect non-family employees to have an “ownership” attitude as well. The intangible benefits –flex time, work-life balance and a family-like atmosphere of caring for all employees – add value that can’t be calculated in a job description.”
Family Business Leaders Searching for Candidates through Referrals, Job Listings, and Social Media Ads
Half of family businesses will look internally to fill open positions. For those companies not promoting from within, 77.8% said they will seek talent through traditional and online job listings; 76.4% through referrals, and (41.7%) are now using social media advertising to reach the right candidates.
Cost of Living, Public Infrastructure Makes Columbus a Great Place to Have a Family Business
The Family Business Forecast also unveiled the top three qualities that make Central Ohio a desirable place to run a family business, those surveyed indicated the region’s cost of living (70.83%), infrastructure (59.7%), and economic direction (45.8%) were great reasons to set business roots in Central Ohio.
“Columbus is as great of a place to call home as it is to do business,” said Wolper. “The resources in place, combined with the collaborate business culture within our community are major contributors to the region’s economic rise, and why Central Ohio is a great place to start – and keep – a family business.”
The 2021 Family Business Forecast survey was completed by 81 family-owned business leaders in and around Franklin County.
About the Conway Center for Family Business
The Conway Center for Family Business is Central Ohio’s resource for educational programs, resources and networking opportunities to support the growth and success of family-owned businesses. The Center celebrates the successes of family-owned businesses at its annual awards program and offers peer group opportunities for next-generation leaders, family business leaders, and women family business owners. The organization includes more than 200 family-owned businesses from Central Ohio that employ more than 35,000 individuals.