Lancaster University Management School professor has designed Evolve Digital to help business leaders successfully navigate digital transformation.

  • Professor Steve Kempster has designed Evolve Digital, an online programme to help SME family business owners adopt new technologies
  • The programme is part of a national research study backed by BEIS and Innovate UK
  • Fully-funded places are available to small, family-run Lancashire SMEs
  • The next Evolve Digital cohorts begin in February and April

Fully-funded places are available on an online programme from Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) which supports small, family-run businesses in Lancashire to become more productive by successfully implementing digital technologies.

The Evolve Digital 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.

‘Will inform UK government policy on the needs of small, family businesses’

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.

Places on Evolve Digital are available to eligible businesses in Lancashire 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.

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 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.”

The Lancashire business owner who’s already benefitting from the scheme

Jen Cross is operations manager at Pilling-based Northern Kilns and been one of the first business leaders to join the LUMS Evolve Digital programme. Jen runs the business, which makes pottery kilns for commercial and private use, alongside her brother, Adam, and father, Adrian.

Jen said:

“Like so many businesses, we had to stop production during the first lockdown.

However, since we reopened, we have been blown away by the increased demand for home kilns as more people discover the satisfaction and mental health benefits of throwing and firing their own pottery.

“However, to fully take advantage the uplift in orders we have to digitise wherever we can. Glitches and hold-ups that are manageable now could cause major headaches when we’re operating at a larger scale.

Lancaster University

“I joined Evolve Digital to help me work out which digital tools will unlock the potential in our business and which might be expensive and time-consuming mistakes.

“However, rather than telling me what technology to choose, the sessions have gone a lot deeper, encouraging me to get under the skin of our family leadership style and business strategy.

“Dad and Adam have been very supportive of me taking the time out for the programme. Being away from the office is a sacrifice but I have come back brimming with plans so they can see it’s a good use of my time.”

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.

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