A Cumbrian business owner is one of the first to take part in a programme to help family-run small businesses adopt new technologies.
Helen Lawrie, business development manager at Kendal-based film production company Land & Sky Media, joined Lancaster University Management School’s Evolve Digital programme last autumn.
The programme has been designed by Professor Steve Kempster, LUMS professor of leadership, learning and development.
It enables business leaders to explore how they can make their enterprises more sustainable for future generations by successfully introducing new digital tools.
Fully-funded places are available on the online programme, with the next cohorts beginning in February and April.
Helen runs Land & Sky Media with her partner, Dom Bush.
She said: “Although we create a digital product – our documentaries – I still often feel cautious about introducing new technology to the business.
“We wanted to use technology to streamline our behind-the-scenes processes, allowing Dom and I to spend our time on the things we can’t digitalise: developing relationships and making great documentaries. But it was hard to know where to start.”
LUMS has been chosen to deliver Evolve Digital by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Innovate UK.
The programme is part of a national research study and the outcomes will inform UK government policy on the needs of small, family businesses.
Evolve Digital is one of the most recent programmes in LUMS’ decades-long history of translating the latest academic research into tailored and practical support for SMEs across the UK.
Participants on the programme will first explore their leadership styles and their businesses strategy, capacity and capabilities.
This provides a firm foundation on which they can go on to choose the right technology and successfully introduce it to their business.
Professor Steve Kempster said: “The pandemic has made it clear that if we don’t shape the digitalisation of our businesses, it will shape us.
“For some companies, that perhaps didn’t have a strong focus on technology before, this shift can be really tough, and in family-run businesses, in particular, it can bring emotional as well as practical challenges.
“It means grappling with issues like ‘who has the power to make the final decision?’ and ‘is it riskier to make a change or stick with the status quo?’.
“There is a great deal of pressure on leaders: no one wants to be the last generation of a family business.
“Therefore, Evolve Digital is first about building leadership skills –courage, conviction and strength of character – in our participants and then supporting them to think strategically about their business objectives.
“This grounding in knowing themselves and their business provides a solid foundation for assessing new technologies – or indeed any future change – gaining buy-in and leading implementation.”
Helen added: “Although we are partners in life as well as in business, I do need to work to bring Dom around to my way of thinking sometimes!
“Fortunately, the first part of Evolve Digital focused on how we can get our teams to buy into change.
“We then went on to understand our leadership styles and business strategy so we have a good grounding for implementing change.
“I’m already feeling more confident in making considered, strategic, digital changes to the business to help us become more efficient and productive in future.”
Places on Evolve Digital are available to eligible businesses in Cumbria and across the North West that employ between two and 50 people.
Sessions are delivered online over three months for around 15 hours per month. Places are fully-funded by BEIS and Innovate UK.
New Evolve Digital cohorts are beginning on February 10 and April 27. To find out more, and to register interest in taking part, go to lancaster.ac.uk/lums/evolve-digital.