Canada’s family business survey 2018

Succession planning, digital transformation, private equity and talent acquisition are just some of the issues on the minds of Canadian family businesses

The release of our ninth PwC global family business survey comes at a time of extraordinary transformation: digital technology is disrupting whole industries; sustainability is becoming central to the conduct of business; in the corporate and financial worlds, winning trust is more important than it has ever been; and millennials represent an enduring demographic change.

After surveying almost 3,000 family businesses across 53 territories, we were able to prove that family businesses—built around strong values and an aspirational purpose—have a competitive advantage in disruptive times that pays off in real terms. In Canada, the survey shows family businesses are in good health, with 66% seeing growth over the last 12 months, up from 61% in 2016. The number of Canadian companies seeing growth in the last 12 months was slightly behind the global findings (69%), but family businesses in this country are optimistic about their revenue prospects in the near future. According to our survey, 87% of Canadian family businesses expect to grow over the next two years.

But challenges are on the horizon, with Canadian family businesses expressing concern about issues like talent acquisition and retention, innovation and digital transformation and disruption. According to our survey, they’re also slightly behind their global peers on diversification, with 16% operating in multiple sectors and markets (versus 26% globally). But Canadian family businesses do see good prospects for rising to the challenge of digital transformation, with 43% predicting they’ll have made significant steps on their digital capabilities in the next two years.


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Key findings from PwC's Global Family Business Survey 2018 [1:54 mins]

Explore the Canadian survey findings

Sustaining the growth trajectory

Canada’s family businesses are in good health, with 87% expecting to grow in the future. Despite the optimism, they face several challenges that could affect their growth prospects. The top challenges for Canadian businesses include innovation (57%), accessing the right skills and capabilities (57%), the economic environment (49%) and domestic competition (48%). But as our survey found, family businesses do see a competitive advantage in their values and sense of purpose. Among Canadian respondents, 88% said they have a clear sense of agreed values and purpose as a company. Of that group, 83% believe those values give the organization a competitive advantage.

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Attracting and retaining talent

Attracting and retaining talent is a big concern for Canadian businesses, with 84% citing this issue as a top personal and business goal for the next two years. While family businesses may not always be able to match the compensation offered by public companies, they can get an edge on talent acquisition through the more family-oriented work environments they can offer. Company values can be an important part of creating an environment that attracts and retains talent. According to our survey, 92% of Canadian family businesses with a clear set of agreed values believe they make the company more attractive to potential new employees. Another 90% believe those values make the company a happier place to work, while 88% think they’ve improved staff retention.

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The need to survive and thrive amid disruption

More Canadian family businesses (33%) felt vulnerable to digital disruption in 2018 than in 2016 (20%). Whether from known competitors, newcomers to the market or new technology, businesses are more aware of their vulnerability in the digital age. But many Canadian family businesses (43%) expect to have made significant steps in terms of their digital capabilities in the next two years, while a significant number (26%) believe they’ll be selling goods or services in new countries. Only 10% expect to have significantly changed their business model over that time period.


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Protecting your legacy

As they think about the future, 78% of Canadian family businesses want to protect their business as the most important family asset. They also expressed a desire to keep the family connected to the success of their business. Among the top long-term goals cited was a desire to keep the business in the family (60%), build a legacy (60%) and create dividends for family members (60%). When it comes to succession planning, only 19% of Canadian family businesses have a fulsome, formalized plan in place. And of those with any sort of plan, 71% have discussed it with other family members. Family members are often at the centre of those plans, with 48% looking to pass management and/or ownership of the business to the next generation.

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Looking outside the family to private equity

While keeping the family connected to the organization is a clear concern for survey respondents, many are willing to look elsewhere to less traditional sources to fund the business. While family businesses have tended to turn to bank credit and internal resources for funding, 39% of global respondents said they’d be willing to look at private equity as a financing option. In Canada, almost half of family businesses were open to private equity as a funding source.


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Bill McLean

Bill McLean

Canada Family Enterprises and Business Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 869 2323