Nurturing family businesses for future generations

8 February 2024

Aoife McAdam discusses the significance of family businesses in Ireland, and how BGF is uniquely positioned to support their growth—through long-term, minority capital.

Ireland is home to an estimated 173,000 family businesses. This equates to around 70% of Irish companies being family-owned. Together, they contribute €19bn to the exchequer each year, and make up over 50% of Irish GDP. Meanwhile, family businesses in Ireland also account for nearly one million jobs—with more people working for family-run firms than all foreign businesses and the State combined.

Family businesses face their own unique set of challenges. Succession planning, for instance, is often front of mind for business owners that are focused on protecting their legacy and ensuring the business stays in the family. Another common challenge for family businesses is in building out their teams, whether that’s improving governance, strengthening boards, or bringing in the right functional expertise. The latter may be especially pertinent in emerging areas like ESG and digital, which can help accelerate future growth.

But there’s often an assumption that bringing in external partners to help tackle these challenges will lead to a loss of control in the business. This hesitancy to fundraise or seek support from experts can be a huge challenge for family businesses in itself, and has the ability to significantly hinder a company’s growth.

In reality, raising investment doesn’t have to see you give up control of the business. Unlike traditional private equity, minority investors like BGF can bring invaluable experience, funds, and support in growing your business, without taking a controlling equity stake. We can also leverage our extensive networks to introduce you to local business leaders and non-executives.

We’re already working with a number of family businesses across Ireland, providing minority capital to founders looking to de-risk, bring on experience, or address succession concerns, while still maintaining control.

One example is specialist food producer Dublin Meat Company. Founded by Paddy O’Leary in 2005, the business is now led by his sons, Brian and David (pictured above). By raising minority equity investment from BGF in 2022, Dublin Meat Company was able to acquire another food processing company and its manufacturing facilities, while investing in product development for future growth.

Other family businesses we’ve backed so far include Dublin-based housebuilder Winterbrook, father-son precision engineering business Croom Precision Medical, and the mother-daughter team behind The Avoca Clinic. Alongside each of these investments, we provided extensive value creation support, including introducing experienced non-executive chairs (NXCs) via BGF’s Talent Network.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, we supported leading kitchen component firm and family business Uform in its Irish and UK expansion. Over the course of three years, we invested almost £10m into the company and introduced the team to its chair, Jim Meredith, the former-CEO of Waste Recycling Group and chair of waste management business Augean plc.

As a result of our investment, Uform was able to double down on recruitment and training, increase productivity, and add new manufacturing facilities—leading to 40% growth year-on-year and more than 2x return on our original investment at exit.

“BGF get family businesses, they really do…I would take investment from BGF every day of the week.”
Eamon Donnelly, Co-Founder of Uform

Only a decade ago, the idea of family businesses taking on institutional investment would have been unheard of. Yet BGF’s unique minority and patient capital approach to investing is well-suited to family businesses and sets us apart from others in the market. Like many of the companies we back, we can take a long-term view when required, working with families to scale-up their operations, without taking over the reins.