A new family enterprise organization has sprung up in Canada aimed at bolstering the economic significance of family companies and providing research and knowledge to like-minded enterprises that can learn and share from each other.

Earlier this month, Business Families Foundation and Family Enterprise Xchange Foundation officially amalgamated to become Family Enterprise Foundation (FEF), said Jim Burton, chair of FEF.

Burton, who had been chair of the Family Enterprise Xchange Foundation, said the new organization’s goal is to be a voice in Canada, but not in an advocacy role. Rather, he said, its main commitment is to provide research on family businesses and the crucial role they play in the country’s economy to groups like the Conference Board of Canada.

Currently, family businesses employ 6.9 million people in Canada, accounting for almost 47 per cent of all private sector employment and generating almost 49 per cent of the country’s private sector GDP, FEF said in a news release.

Burton, who is also executive chairman and CEO of PPI Management Inc., said little empirical research had been conducted on family enterprises up until a few years ago despite the vital role they play in the Canadian economy.

In an interview, Burton said FEF will also help make financial advisors aware of the Family Enterprise Advisor designation to help those in the industry understand what family businesses need in terms of advice.

Committed to developing ongoing research

“We are committed to developing ongoing research and we see that as the basis of our voice,” said Burton. “It helps us learn from each other. Best practices also allow us to have research that will provide empirical evidence for anyone – including those establishing public policy – on how important and how valuable family enterprise is to the Canadian economy.”

With COVID-19 causing some firms, including family enterprises, to close the timing of the new organization is spot on. “Bringing these two organizations together to create the Family Enterprise Foundation will provide the resources needed by this crucial sector of the economy, so they can support their employees and communities – as they always do – in the return to prosperity,” Burton said in a news release.

As for his own family business, Burton said after PPI was sold to iA Financial Group in February 2018, he was able to put a sum of money into a charitable foundation that his seven children now run.

“They are now learning to become philanthropic. So our vision for our family for the next generation, or two, or three, or four –hopefully – is not to run a private business. We have consciously chosen instead to put capital into this foundation and we are committed to being a giving family.”