What business schools can do for family businesses
5th April 2018
The traditional view amongst business people is that academics live in a different world, where theory rules and there is little consideration for the practicalities experienced in the real world. I am sure that there are such academics out there, but I also know that there are a lot, especially in our world class business schools, who are much more practical, and therefore useful, than you might think.
The UK has over 130 business schools, most within a university structure. In terms of prestige, the UK ranks second only to the US in having the most top 100 ranked business schools.
Theoretical knowledge & practical experience
Within business schools you are highly likely to meet current and former business people who have the theoretical knowledge as well as the practical experience to be of significant use to business owners and managers of all sizes. More recently, the Small Business Charter, which is run by the Chartered Association of Business Schools, recognises business schools offering effective support to SMEs. The type of support on offer extends beyond classroom teaching to include business advice, mentoring, access to researchers, access to students, and networking opportunities. These activities are available to businesses regardless of how big or how small they may be.
For bigger companies, business schools will put on bespoke training, developed just for your workforce, to your specification.
Training and work opportunities
As one example, Sheffield University Management School and their CLEAR IDEAS training programme helps participants address real-life challenges by developing the skills of managers to both better generate and implement new ideas in the workplace. There are numerous examples available from Sheffield where this has led to significant cost savings for the companies involved.
In another example, Strathclyde’s Hunter Institute for Entrepreneurship saw the launch of the Growth Advantage Programme - the first continuing professional development programme for high growth entrepreneurial businesses, sponsored by Santander. Analysis of impact found that each participant company had achieved 20-30% growth in the six months after the programme.
Elsewhere, the John Lewis Partnership collaborated with Cranfield School of Management to develop their supply chain capability to provide a seamless and highly efficient shopping experience for their customers. This involved not just John Lewis staff, but importantly, was extended to their supply chain managers. This has contributed to the continued success of John Lewis despite fierce competition from wholly online retailers.
Business schools are especially keen to find work placements and internships for their students. These can provide students with valuable experience, and businesses with a cheap and enthusiastic part-time employee who you may well choose to employ at the end of their studies.
Research and events
You may have a business issue that you would like researched, but don’t have the capacity or expertise to do it yourself. PhD students and research assistants regularly look for real life problems to tackle.
Or perhaps you have a particular need for certain skills in the graduates you are looking to employ. A conversation and some work with your local business school may result in you being able to influence the curriculum.
Academics do want to stay up to date and they know that to do that, they need to speak with active business people. You may also find that the door is wide-open to offers of guest talks or lectures. Many schools now engage what are called ‘entrepreneurs-in-residence’, who are business people who work closely with the business school in curriculum development, identifying research topics, talking to and mentoring students, etc. In return the entrepreneurs-in-residence find an active and knowledgeable local network of business people from all sorts of industries, with which to engage.
There are a number of business schools with a dedicated department for dealing with family businesses, for example Lancaster University’s Centre for Family Business which offers, amongst other things the LEAD programme. It has been found that spending time in the business school can give family business leaders the space they need to concentrate on strategic thinking. Indeed some multi-generational family businesses send the next generation of leaders on longer term specific programmes to prepare for taking over the business.
Business schools are becoming better at welcoming business people through their doors, providing free to attend events, giving a great opportunity to peek in to have a look at what is going on.
Like any firm, a family business will have to think about cash flow, finance, marketing, staffing, and business planning, as well as challenges unique to family businesses such as succession planning, ownership models, family values, brand marketing, and dealing with family politics in a business environment. There will be a business school that can help you. Experience shows that family businesses appreciate the flexibility of working with a business school, as well as the accessibility. Business schools are trusted to provide informed and supportive advice which exactly meets their requirements because the school will spend time understanding the family dynamics. Business schools appreciate that they are not just dealing with a company, but with private family relationships and histories.
The Chartered Association of Business Schools is the membership body of the UK’s business schools. We support our members to maintain world-class standards of teaching and research, and help shape policy and create opportunities through dialogue with business and government.