DCU research finds that family businesses account for 64% of all Irish businesses

First-of-its-kind research from DCU National Centre for Family Business has found that there are 160,700 family businesses in Ireland, accounting for 64% of Irish businesses.  Irish family businesses were also found to employ 938,000 people, approximately 2/3 of the working population in Ireland.  The research was endorsed by European Commissioner for Trade, Phil Hogan.


Family Business By Numbers

Family Business By Numbers

Irish Family Business by Numbers is the first piece of research to identify the number of family businesses in Ireland, the total number of people employed in Irish family business and the sectors where family businesses are most numerous.


Defining Family Business


A family business is one where:


  • One family holds more than 50% of voting shares, and/or
  • One family supplies a significant proportion of the senior management and effectively controls the business, and/or
  • A family or a family relationship influences the enterprise and the latter is perceived to be a family business


The report is based on 2016 census data and will be updated next year when new census data becomes available.


Read the full the report NCFB Family Business By Numbers


Other findings


The report found that more than 90% of family business in Ireland are micro enterprises, employing between one and nine people.  Small and medium-sized enterprises (employing between 10 and 249 people) account for just 8% of Irish family businesses. These 12,300 SME family businesses employ 380,000 people.


The report also found 137,100 family farms in Ireland. These represent 99.7% of all operating farms in the country. Outside of agriculture, the greatest representation of family businesses in Ireland is in the service and distribution sector (112,400), and building and construction (34,000).


Report author Professor Colm O’Gorman said “good data leads to good policy. We know that family businesses behave differently to other ownership forms. It is essential that policy makers and those involved in supporting businesses have good data on these businesses – and as a starting point- data on the extent and nature of family businesses in Ireland. This report is just the beginning of our intention to develop robust data on Irish family businesses.”


DCU National Centre for Family Business Director Eric Clinton said “Family businesses are at the heart of Irish economic and social life. You need only look at the names of the sponsors on a GAA jersey in rural Ireland to see the significance of family business at a regional level. That contribution is perhaps not recognised in the same way as larger multinationals based in Ireland. This report demonstrates that family business is the dominant business form in Ireland. While family businesses are very different in their nature and size to larger organisations, their contribution at regional level cannot be underestimated, as they support local economies and communities across the country. At DCU National Centre for Family Business, we want family businesses to have continued prosperity, to become multigenerational and we need to know more about the unique challenges that they face in order to support them. This research is key to achieving that, as now have an accurate data set from which to continue to measure impact, identify their unique needs as family businesses and ensure the family business sector is recognised as the bedrock of the Irish economy.”


European Commissioner for Trade, Phil Hogan said 


“I welcome the DCU National Centre for Family Business report as it quantifies the scale of family businesses in Ireland, creating a useful new data set and demonstrating that family business is the dominant form of business organisation in Ireland. 


Taking this through to the European context, this report compares Irish family business levels to those reported across the European Union, which can be as high as 71% in countries such as the Netherlands and Finland. It demonstrates that family businesses are highly represented across the European Union.”

About this research


To determine the number of family businesses operating in Ireland the report draws from data collected in the 2016 Census. The proportion of family enterprises in each sector of the economy was extracted from the CSO databases. The following sectors were analysed; 1) Service and Distribution, 2) Building and Construction, 3) Industry and 4) Financial and Insurance. Farming and agricultural enterprises were analysed separately in line with CSO sectoral categories.

The research was compiled by Professor of Entrepreneurship Colm O’Gorman and researcher Keeva Farrelly.


About the National Centre for Family Business (NCFB)


Dublin City University’s National Centre for Family Business is the first research, engagement and educational centre of its kind on the island of Ireland. Established in 2013, the National Centre for Family Business’ mission is to empower innovative Irish family businesses to embrace their transgenerational potential.

A team within the DCU Centre for Family Business was commissioned by Fingal County Council to complete this case study. The Family Business Report, Lessons in Resilience and Success: a Snapshot of Multi-generational Family Businesses in Fingal, Dublin was produced by Martina Brophy and Eric Clinton. Their study follows twelve family businesses which are all multi-generational, family-owned and head-quartered in Fingal. Through conducting interviews with these individuals they were able to distinguish needs, challenges and strengths that come with running a family business.


“Family businesses are a complex and highly resourceful business type. Knowledge, learnings, resources, values and traditions pass across generations of a family: often, what is found are strategic resources and capabilities that can make a family firm distinctive and competitively advantaged,” writes Dr. Eric Clinton in this study.


The report provides a snapshot of 12 multi-generational family businesses in Fingal with family involvement ranging from second to fourth generation. Between them they employ over 3,500 and have turnovers ranging from €1.5 million to in excess of €100m per annum.

Business & Finance, Ireland’s leading business magazine, have covered the topic in an article, Talent in Family Business. Dr. Eric Clinton, Director of the DCU Centre for Family Business, covers a variety of topics within the topic of family business from how much family should get involved to how important it is to become a cohesive team.

Families have an effect in the businesses day-to-day happenings whether it is positive or negative. Thus, through the Family Business study Clinton and Brophy come together and provide information and recommendations on how to run a successful family run business.


Check out what the DCU Centre for Family Business is all about:





PhD Scholar of DCU Centre for Family Business (CFB), Vanessa Diaz will present at The Academy of Management Annual Meeting, the premier conference for scholarly management and organisation. Ms Diaz is a co-author on the paper entitled Innovation Capability in Family Firms: An Integration Approach.

The Academy of Management Annual Meeting, attracting over 10,000 academics and scholars, will be held in Vancouver, Canada August 7-11th, 2015.

The paper, accepted in April this year, looks at a sample of 1,205 family SME manufacturing firms across Europe, and examines the impact of innovation on the future growth of these firms.  The authors review innovation in terms of technology development, operations, management and transaction capability.

The authors are Dr. Eric Clinton (Director of CFB), Professor Justin Craig (Adjunct Professor of CFB), Dr. Michael Dowling (Associate Investigator in CFB), Vanessa Diaz (PhD scholar of CFB) and Catherine Faherty (PhD scholar of CFB).

This year, Opening Governance is the theme of the 75th AOM Annual Meeting. The conference invites members to consider opportunities to improve the effectiveness and creativity of organisations by restructuring systems at the highest organisational levels.

Dublin City University’s Centre for Family Business is inviting incumbent and next generation family business members to attend one of its four nationwide workshops during the month of May. The events will take place in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway from 19th – 28th May.

These interactive workshops entitled ‘Professionalisation of the Family Business – What it is and why it matters?’ will be facilitated by leading family business academic and founding director of the Australian Centre for Family Business, Professor Ken Moores. A veteran family business chairman and non-executive director of fourth generation family business, Professor Moores will speak about structuring the family business and the importance of professionalisation.

dcu centre for family business

Each event will also feature an insightful and thought provoking contribution from a local guest business who will share their experience of professionalising and succession.  All workshops will encourage attendees’ involvement and groups will work together to find solutions for common family business challenges.

  • Dublin event: 19th of May in the William Fry Offices, Dublin 2
  • Cork event: 21st of May in the River Lee Hotel
  • Limerick event: 26th of May in the Castletroy Park Hotel
  • Galway event: 28th May in the g Hotel

The Centre for Family Business Roadshow is supported by partners AIB, PwC and William Fry.

To register for this event, visit the DCU Centre for Family Business website.

DCU’s Centre for Family Business is holding a half-day conference entitled ‘Professionalising Your Family Business’ on Tuesday 24th March.

The prosperity of Ireland is dependent on the strength of family business but for family firms, survival is a fundamental issue and they face multiple challenges. The aim of this event is to present the challenges family businesses face on a day-to-day basis, to discuss how professionalisation will ultimately drive growth and to explore how to build your social capital for enduring family business.

The keynote speaker will be Dr Timothy Habbershon, Managing Director of Fidelity Investments in the USA. Dr Habbershon is also advisor to Johnson family of Fidelity Investments and founding director of the Institute for Family Enterprising, Babson College, Massachusetts. Other speakers include: Bobby Kerr, Chairman of Insomnia Coffee Company and Jonathan Stafford, Managing Director of Stafford Funeral Homes.

Panellists on the day will include Colm Mac Fhionnlaoich, Client Development Manager, Enterprise Ireland, Paul Hennessy, Business Partner, PwC Ireland, Michael Slein, Founder and Director, LED Group and Dave Byrne, Managing Director, Dualtron Ltd.

For further information, please visit the DCU Centre for Family Business website

The DCU Centre for Family Business is hosting it’s final event in the Legacy Series on Wednesday 19th November in the DCU Ryan Academy, Citywest from 8 – 11.30am (registration from 7.30am).

This workshop is exclusive to incumbent and next generation family business practitioners and will cover thought provoking and sensitive topics of preserving and transferring wealth. We encourage each business to bring multiple family members and generation as well as non-family executive team representatives.

Topics for Discussion:

  • Preserving family business wealth;
  • Transferring family business;
  • Planning financial future for incumbent and the next generation.

Special Guest:

  • Mr. Vincent Carton, 8th Generation Family Business Manor Farm.

Speakers & Panellists:

  • Mr. Tim Lynch, KPMG;
  • Mr. Patrick Mulcahy, DCU Business School;
  • Dr. Eric Clinton, DCU Centre for Family Business.

Event Facilitator:

  • Prof. Finian Buckley, DCU Business School.

Register below by 7th November 2014:

  • Online: Click Here
  • Email:
  • Phone: 01 700 6921

Please find the full event invite here.

2015 events will focus on Governance and Succession topics.