Peer Learning and The Family Business

So, who is your peer?

A peer: “A person of the same age, the same social position, or having the same abilities as other people in a group”

Does this mean the family business is the ultimate peer group

The very nature of family business makes family businesses self contained peer groups. Family members working in a family business are  business owners tend to have the same social position.  All family members have  the opportunity to contribute to the success of the business.  A ‘husband and wife’ team will probably  be of similar ages. With a generational family business there is a possibility that there will be a number of them of similar ages.

Running your business with your spouse you will be both learning to manage business and personal life. You will be doing this with the one person who knows you better than anyone else. Growing up in a generational family business you will have felt the impact of the peer group. As a family business child you would hear kitchen table conversations between mum , dad and grandad. These family conversations create business actions (or inaction) driven by frank discussions in arenas of trust.

Nothing is more powerful than  your peers challenging you

Family businesses are used to everyone from suppliers to customers challenging their plans.  We all treat these challenges with the respect they deserve.  We know that the  challenges that really test us are made by folk who walk in our shoes.  Family business owners are used to been challenged by other members of their family.  This is what makes them different to non family businesses.  Our most memorable impact from facilitating the Lancaster University Family Business Program was the impact of family business owners working in peer groups to challenge each other.

To remain ahead of the game in business, your learning has to be greater than the rate of change.  Otherwise you will be left behind.

INSEAD an institution that works closely with some of the largest and most successful family firms from across the world. INSEAD puts the success of these businesses down to bedrocks of:  “Clear and well defined family values, trust, networks and innovation” . In todays rapidly changing business environment family busineses can build on their values, trust and networks to be at the forefront of innovation in systems and products. So, our learning must keep up with the rate of change, otherwise we will be left behind.

Action Learning is a powerful tool to enhance your decision making skills on your business journey, fundamentally there is no learning without action!

We have found that combining peer to peer learning with action learning creates a powerful tool.  This combination of learning  leads directly to actions  encouraged by a group of trusted peers.  It takes place in a confidential setting of your peers of  family business leaders from a variety of sectors.  Your peers asks you to examine the challenges within your business in an open and honest way, using open question techniques.  By doing this, the peer group  improves your confidence helping you achieve personal and business goals and achieve your overall ambitions.

Come and join us with Be the Business

Thomas Jardine & Co are working with Be the Business, the Family Business Network and Cumbria Growth Hub to deliver a family business programme based on peer to peer action learning and would love you to be part of it.  Take your first action and  come and join us.


Think Plan Do

Those who think and those who do

Our world is made up of three types of people.  Those who think and spend time planning before they do. Then there are those who do and spend time fixing what they’ve done after its done. Then in the middle are those who do a bit of  thinking and a bit of doing.

In business thinkers frustrate those who do and  those that do tend to worry thinkers.  People run good businesses when they know when to think and when to do .  Achieving this is down to habit and behaviour.

At Thomas Jardine we help businesses grow by supporting small changes in their behaviour that allows a constructive focus on thinking and doing.

On it not in it

At the Guild we run the ‘on it not in it’ club where we all spend time rebalancing the time we spend on our businesses (thinking) and the time we spend in our businesses (doing).  This is a real peer group of people who can genuinely support each other as we balance the need to think and do.

Be the Business and develop good habits with your peers

We must stress that the best people to encourage habits that balance your thinking and doing are those in the same boat as you. This is where peer groups and advisory boards come into their own. We are working with Be the Business to deliver both peer learning and advisory boards for the North West Family Business Programme. If you want to know more contact ourselves or any of our partners (The Family Business Network, North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce; East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and Cumbria Chamber of Commerce). Of course some times you need more than peer support to develop an idea and this is when you need more focused time thinking about and planning for your businesses future.

Innovation Design Programme

There are numerous programmes available that allow businesses the time and space to plan and innovate.  We are currently working with Lancaster University to develop a programme to encourage innovation in Cumbria’s  Supply Chain.  This is an exciting concept working across a supply chain and is based in part with work we did with Cumbria LEP on the food and drink sector.  For more details please contact Lancaster University Management School . 

Take time to talk to potential customers and fellow businesses

Programmes aren’t the only way you can share experiences with your customers and peers.  Last year we spent three great days in the company of  This is Cumbria.  At surface level this was a Cumbrian Food and Drink Pavilion at the Farm Shop & Deli Show.   Like all trade shows it allowed our businesses to connect with old and new customers alike.  The extra benefit was the time that these businesses could share their experiences with peers from the local area.  You get new ideas that drive your business thinking forward by talking with other businesses.  If you want to join us in 2020 please give us a shout.

Sometimes you just need to see the bigger picture

Most businesses don’t get a lot of time to really step back and think about the bigger picture. Some would argue that this ‘thinking time’ is just too far removed from actually working in the business.  However taking a deep breath and occasionally scanning the horizon can really help you check that the short term direction of your business matches with your long term goals.  With this in mind we are working with Cumbria Forum on a  two day event in September.  This will use design thinking to deep dive into future relationships with customers and suppliers.  If you’re interested please contact the forum.

Always leave with an action plan

Thinking and planning are essential for sustainable business growth.  But they are useless without actions. So hopefully this article has made you think and you are now tempted to make a new plan.  Please, please  give yourself up to three actions that you will take to make sure you convert thinking into doing.  Ideally share these with one of your peers ( they can then hold you to account) or if you want share them with us and we will remind you of your plans in 6 months time.  Let’s all think and do and make our businesses the best they can be.