Our project is designed to increase the confidence of leaders in small family businesses to implement proven technologies to increase business productivity.

We propose to assist 40 family businesses with fewer than 50 employees in locations across the south of England (20 in a control group and 20 in a treatment group). The project will engage with business leaders in any sector.

We will provide them with 42 hours of facilitated peer-based learning generating greater intention to adopt than solely providing access to online materials for self-guided learning.


This trial is led by Enterprise South and includes the other members of the Cavendish Consortium (trading as Cavendish Enterprise) i.e TEDCO, Business West, NBV; together with Lancaster University Management School (LUMS).

Our goal is to identify a cost-effective, yet productivity-enhancing programme of peer-group learning for family business SMEs which can be replicated and run at scale throughout the country.

Our experiment addresses a key problem faced by the long tail of low-productivity businesses in England by seeking to reduce barriers to the adoption of digital technologies that have been demonstrated to increase productivity.

By selecting family businesses with low rates of digital technology adoption and working with them in facilitated peer-groups we aim to provide:

  • a trial that demonstrates measurable improvements in intent to adopt productivity enhancing digital technologies;
  • although the trial will not be long enough to generate consistent implementation activity, evidence of some adoption of the technologies before the end of the trial; and
  • in the longer term, and measurable by data-matching by BEIS or its agents, a clear improvement in the productivity of the participating firms.

The treatment group will benefit from LUMS’ well-tested leadership development processes, focused exclusively on digital technology adoption. To make the programme less expensive and more scalable, fewer interventions are made over a shorter duration. We believe a tightly-focussed facilitated programme of this sort is innovative in this field. The treatment group and primary control group will both receive access to online resources to improve productivity. The secondary control group will receive no support at all.

The control and treatment groups, each of 20 family businesses with fewer than 50 employees, will need to be recruited regionally.