Family Business

Family Business Excellence Programme

A six-month programme, designed for family-run SMEs to enhance business productivity and develop a sustainable strategy to serve future generations

About the Programme

There are so many challenges that arise from mixing business with family. Through years of research and engagement with global family businesses, the Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) Centre for Family Business has developed a deep understanding of these challenges and how to overcome them. 

For more information, come to our next event:

Culture & Communication in Family Business
Wednesday 10th July, Stanley House Hotel, Mellor

This event will feature a keynote address from two generations of the Hall Family from 
Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses as well as an interactive panel discussion, this event will
give you the opportunity to take time out of the business to explore what it takes to build
a positive culture and communicate effectively within a family business. Incorporating both
theory and practice, this event will give you the inspiration and the tools to make positive
changes within your business.

You will also have the opportunity to find out more about our upcoming Family Business Excellence Programme, delivered as part of Boost Business Lancashire, and how it could help you develop a productive and sustainable family business with a strategy to serve future generations.

Find out more and register here


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Programme Elements

The Family Business Excellence Programme includes 1 day per month, over 6 months. You'll participate in a range of challenges, workshops and tasks to develop strategic thought processes and skills to build a sustainable future for your business. The focus on practical learning means there are no formal assessments.

A two-day overnight event to build trust and start the journey

Business Benchmark session to explore your current situation, identify strengths and weaknesses, and what changes will have the biggest impact

Practical workshops on the real issues behind family businesses; leadership, strategy, innovation

A behind-the-scenes company visit to a regional family business to learn best practice

Learn from leading family business academics at Lancaster University Management School’s ‘Centre for Family Business’

Interactive 'fish-bowl' panel discussion with industry experts including LUMS Centre for Family Business

Get in touch

To discover more about the Family Business Excellence Programme and how it could transform your organisation, please complete our enquiry form and we'll be in touch shortly.

The Benefits

Develop a productive and sustainable family business with a strategy to serve future generations. It will give you time to work on your business, solving current and future problems, improve performance and sustainability. Empower and encourage the next generation to take ownership and accountability of business performance, explore inter-generational and succession issues while learning from world-leading family business experts.

Getting past the daily grind - how the Family Business Programme helped Atkinsons overcome barriers to growth

Atkinsons, coffee roasters and tea merchants, are part of Lancaster’s history - a fact not lost on owner and ‘Keeper of the Flame’, Ian Steel. “There’s a feeling of responsibility. It’s the oldest retailer in town, but we can’t get stuck in a ‘heritage rut’. So we try to blend in cutting-edge elements and keep things progressing all the time.”

Ian’s sons are also involved in running the business and the eldest, Maitland, signed up with his father for the pilot of the LUMS Family Business Productivity Programme. Having two delegates from each business can offer fascinating variations of perspective across generations as they get to grips with new approaches for improving productivity and sustainability.

“One thing we did on the programme was to track where you think your business is in its lifecycle and that was interesting,” Maitland says. “Dad saw us as currently setting things in place for it to be in its prime, whereas I had it positioned nearer to its beginning: being younger, I’ve got the rest of my life to see it becoming something more.”

“The programme helps you focus on the hard problems you need to confront to move forward.” Maitland highlights one such issue: limited scope for staff to get involved in roasting. “We’d been putting it on the ‘too hard’ pile, but the peer sessions helped us think through the problem and set a deadline to take action. So we’ve created a space for cross-skilling, opening up opportunities for cafe managers and baristas to grow their knowledge of coffee generally, which increases the quality and consistency of the product. They get more experience, feel more empowered - and the company gains versatility.”

This touches on a common potential sticking point for family businesses: lack of structured career development, which Maitland says can affect people like him and his brother, as well as other personnel. “On the programme, we talked about how you need to make it easier to learn from the people around you and, as you take on more responsibility, how you need to think about who’s going to do the jobs you used to do.”

“It also really helped with leadership styles,” he says. “Rather than the typical family business pacesetting style, adopting a coaching style that enables staff to buy into your values. And it encouraged us to implement structured meetings with heads of department, to get a clear idea of what needs to be done and to set an action plan. What’s definitely been useful from the whole exercise is taking a step back and thinking about what we want to do going forward and how we’re going to do it.”

“The programme has helped us to solve previously unsolvable problems,” Ian confirms, citing the example of having another business on the premises, which had been nurtured through the early incubation stage and had grown into a major supplier. “Whilst it had been apparent for a while that the paths of the two businesses were diverging, having a new toolkit from the Productivity Programme gave us the clarity and boldness of vision and the courage and expertise to develop a strategy to satisfy both parties. We now operate this business ourselves, with much healthier margins and it complements our existing business portfolio.”

Overall, Ian says, attending the programme with his son has offered both of them a fantastic, life-changing opportunity to plan ahead. “I remember one time we came back from a session, and discussed it with the rest of the family, and a half hour debrief ended up taking the whole afternoon because everyone was so interested. Now we have two upcoming business ventures and I’m sure that our outlook since the programme has helped push the doors open. If planning ahead keeps everyone in a good place through the generational shift, that’s what a family business is all about.”

The Family Business Excellence Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, and is available to eligible ERDF Lancashire based SMEs. 

Maitland (left) and Ian Steel (right) - Atkinsons
Business people

"Family businesses face unique challenges. This programme will support you to explore and address the most important of those challenges. We use theoretical frameworks applied by experienced business practitioners, all in the safety of a peer network made up of other regional family businesses. This really is an opportunity to shape the future of your family firm." Matt Hutchinson, Programme Manager 

Costs & Apply

This programme is fully funded, and available to European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) eligible businesses. Businesses must meet the ERDF criteria as below:

  • Based in Lancashire
  • Employ fewer than 250 full-time employees
  • Has an annual turnover less than £40 million
  • Has received less than £160,000 of publicly funded support in the last 3 years
  • Is business to business

To discover more about the programme, please get in touch with us.