THE annual search for the companies which make significant contributions to the economy and their communities gets under way today with the launch of The Herald Scottish Family Business Awards.
The Herald and long-standing title partner Business Gateway have joined forces again to identify the best family enterprises across a range of categories, offering entrants the chance to follow in the footsteps of an impressive list of past winners.
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Last year's victors included Lockerbie-based Process Plant and Machinery, Auchrannie Resort on Arran, two-time winner Macdonald Henderson Solicitors, Barrhead Travel and Crieff Hydro.
The awards, now in their third year, offer the opportunity to recognise firms which make a major contribution to the Scottish economy through trading at home and abroad.
This year a total of 11 categories will be contested, including the awards for the fastest-growing business, business innovation, and for the Scottish Family Business of the Year in two segments: small/medium and large.
A special award will also be presented to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution at a Scottish-headquartered family business over the years. The chairman's award went last year to Dom Maguire, founder and chairman of Glasgow-based funeral business Anderson Maguire.
Hugh Lightbody, chief officer at the Business Gateway National Unit, said: "Almost three-quarters of Scotland's businesses are family owned and the role they play in Scotland's economy, both from contributions to GDP and in the numbers of people they employ, cannot be understated.
"Business Gateway works with thousands of companies across Scotland, many of which are family businesses, and their importance is reflected in our support, as title sponsor, of The Herald Scottish Family Business Awards."
Prizes up for grabs this year also include a Commitment to the Community award. Supported by Foundation Scotland, it is designed to recognise an organisation or individual who has made a major difference to their community through charitable causes or local initiatives.
Giles Ruck, chief executive of Foundation Scotland, said: "We are proud to be part of this year's event, which recognises the importance of family and business and the contribution they make to building stronger communities.
"We work in partnership with individuals, families and businesses to provide small charities and grassroots community groups with the tools they require, to help them deliver often critical services and projects within their own communities."
The awards will also focus on the global impact made by Scottish family businesses through the international growth award, sponsored by law firm Burness Paull.
Grant Stevenson, partner at Burness Paull, which advises firms on entering export markets, said: "We are delighted to sponsor the international growth award at The Scottish Family Business Awards 2014.
"Family businesses are unique organisations, and it is important to celebrate their distinct personality and characteristics.
"The awards are an ideal opportunity to do this, showcasing some of the key names in a sector that is so important to the Scottish economy.
"With the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup both being held in the country this year, Scotland, and Glasgow in particular, is firmly on a global stage."
Meanwhile, the awards will recognise companies which put customers at the heart of their business with the Customer Service Excellence Award, supported by commercial insurance firm TL Dallas.
Bernard Dunn, client director at TL Dallas, noted that many past entrants have benefited from going through the awards entry process, explaining that it raised their profile and highlighting their "strengths and priorities".
He said: "As a fourth generation family business, we know that great customer service, at all levels, is the bedrock of our company's past, present and future. Good luck to everyone who enters this year, enjoy it, and we hope it is good for business."
Alastair Christmas, regional girector of Clydesdale Bank, said: "Family businesses are who we support - many of our customers have been with us for generations. These businesses heavily contribute to their local community, which sits perfectly with our own values - we care about here."
Tom Craig, chairman, Craig Corporate, said: "Last year there was an excellent cross-section of family businesses present - from all parts of Scotland, from many business sectors and a wide range of sizes. It was a delight to see the family business sector being recognised. There are so many successful family businesses in Scotland, making a huge contribution to our economy and employment. We are pleased to demonstrate our continuing commitment to assisting family businesses in Scotland by supporting the Family Business Awards again in 2014."
Fraser Campbell, Partner, Campbell Dallas LLP, said "The firm is delighted to be sponsoring the Business Innovation award at the Scottish Family Business Awards 2014.
"Family businesses comprise over 70% of all Scottish businesses, and their success is vital to the wider business community's health.
"The awards are a great way of profiling how some of the most innovative businesses in Scotland have started out from a family base. A lot of their success stories can be attributed to taking a long term view and their dedication to continual innovation in rapidly changing markets.
"We are delighted to be sponsoring this category. Campbell Dallas wish all the companies that enter the best of luck and hope that these awards continue to help raise the profile of family businesses in Scotland".
Herald business editor Ian McConnell, chairman of the judging panel, said: "The Herald's Scottish Family Business Awards have in their first two years celebrated some great success stories, recognising companies large and small operating in a wide range of sectors.
"The family business sector is such a crucial part of the Scottish economy, and we very much look forward to receiving this year's entries."
This year's award categories in full are: fastest growing family business, supported by Business Gateway, business innovation (Campbell Dallas), international growth award (Burness Paull), customer service excellence (TL Dallas), commitment to the community (Foundation Scotland), leading adviser to family business (Grand Central Hotel), rural family business - small/medium, rural family business - large, Scottish family business of the year - small/medium (Clydesdale Bank), Scottish family business of the Year - large (Craig Corporate), and outstanding contribution (presented by The Herald).
The closing date for entries is Thursday October 2, with the awards to be announced at an event at Glasgow's Grand Central Hotel on Wednesday December 3.
For more information on the awards, including details on how to enter, visit www.herald-events.com/familybusiness