Family businesses exporting successfully: study

Friday, 5 September 2003

Family businesses that are exporting do it as successfully as their non-family counterparts, according to new research by the University of Adelaide.

Chris Graves, a PhD student at the University of Adelaide's Graduate School of Business, has found while family and non-family businesses share similar attitudes towards growth and innovation, family businesses are less likely to start exporting, regardless of their age or size.

His results also suggest that the appointment of directors from outside the family can assist family businesses in growing internationally.

Mr Graves' research is based on figures from the Business Longitudinal Survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The survey contains data on almost 10,000 Australian small to medium-sized businesses employing less than 200 people.

With his supervisor Dr Jill Thomas, Mr Graves is looking at how family businesses, particularly those in the manufacturing sector, are adapting to the challenges brought about by globalisation.

"Only 4% of all businesses in Australia are engaged in exporting, which is well below that of most OECD countries, and the Federal Government has set itself the ambitious task of trying to double that number by 2006," Mr Graves says.

"Because family-owned enterprises make up approximately 70% of all businesses in Australia, the economic prosperity of Australia is largely dependent upon the success of family firms in the global marketplace.

"The more we can understand about what makes family businesses take the step to export and how they ensure their ongoing success, the better chance there will be to boost Australia's overall export performance."

Mr Graves and Dr Thomas will report their findings at the Small Enterprise Association of Australia and New Zealand Conference in Ballarat later this month. The work is part of a wider study supported by the Australian Research Council's linkage grant program, with the SA Chapter of Family Business Australia as the linkage partner.

For the next part of his PhD, Mr Graves is interested in talking to family-owned enterprises in the manufacturing sector that have been exporting, to build a better picture of the challenges they face.


Contact Details

Mr Chris Graves
Business: +61 8 8313 4905

Dr Jill Thomas
Business: + 61 8 8313 4911

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762