By Daniel Hunter

Lancaster University Management School has announced plansto launch a new programme tailored to help support the family business sector.

Consisting of 71% of UK SMEs and employing more than 9.2 million people, contributing £1.1 trillion to the UK economy, Lancaster University described family-run businesses as a “backbone of the UK economy”.

The 10-month-long programme is aimed at current or future leaders of family firms. Taking into account the complexity of the family business dynamic the programme focuses participants on problems within their business and helping them to move the business forward with input from their peers.

Jacqui Jackson, head of family business engagement at Lancaster University Management School, said: “Family businesses have unique goals that stem from the influence of family and they also have distinctive strategies and managerial practices. Sometimes, these distinctive traits correspond to unique strengths and competitive advantages, but they can also cause severe organisational disruption that can cause significant problems within family businesses.

“Lancaster University’s new Leadership for Family Business programme aims to support decision-makers in family firms so they are prepared to meet those challenges.”

The programme addresses complex issues such as succession planning, for when long-standing leaders step down, and different ways of structuring the family within the business. The programme will also explore ideas such as how to go about bringing in external management teams as alternatives to family members to run the business.

Ms Jackson said: “The programme looks at putting into place the structures to make family firms professional. A common problem is that family firms don’t develop the management team. They try to keep it in the family, which may not be the best choice for the health of the business.

“We will give them some different business models and the tools to grow and innovate your business for the long-term through superior leadership. Growth strategies with their peers — it is about changing perspective.”

The programme, which has begun recruiting, will begin in October this year.