PwC, one of the “Big Four” accounting firms and a consulting titan, released its latest periodic survey of United States family businesses.  PwC performs this survey every two years and has been doing it for ten years now.  Because of its size and scope, PwC has the perspective to touch more United States family businesses than most organizations conducting similar surveys.  Those of us in the family business community should take note of these findings as representing a true cross-section of the national family business ecosystem. While the survey surfaces several trends and themes, a few points stood out:
  • 87% of U.S. family businesses plan to be selling basically the same products or services five years from now. The authors noted the lack of planned diversification inherent in this statement and offered a word of caution.
  • 10% of survey respondents were women and 64% of all respondents indicated that they believed women and men would be considered equally for the next generation of leadership positions. These numbers are better than Fortune 500 or 1000 companies and better than they were in this same PwC survey five years ago, but obviously leave plenty of room for improvement.  The survey noted that family businesses are in a unique position to make progress here, as they provide a context to groom girls and women for leadership from a young age.
  • Fewer family businesses are even trying to keep the business in the family for future generations. Of those planning an ownership change in the next year, only 52% said they planned to transition ownership within the family (down from 74% in the last survey) and of those planning an ownership change sometime beyond that, only 69% said they planned to transition ownership within the family (down from 79% in the last study).

You can review these points and much more in-depth analysis at the survey here.

Drew Steen is a business transactions attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP.  He represents both buy-side and sell-side clients in mergers and acquisitions, venture capital investments, joint ventures, equity co-investments and restructurings.  He also serves as regular corporate counsel for several closely-held and family-owned companies.  Drew can be reached via email at or directly at 206.757.8081.