It's been two years since FIB first reported on the formation of a new family business organisation, the Institute for Family Business, the UK chapter of the Family Business Network. Suzy Bibko interviewed Grant Gordon to find out how the association had progressed.
How have you seen IFB grow over the past two year? Has it evolved in any unexpected way (perhaps due to member input)?
We have been through the initial birth phase of the association and the greatest achievement has been the positive commitment of so many family companies to joining IFB and helping to build their own independent member organisation.
Did you experience any sorts of growing pains initially or was it fairly easy to launch this new organisation?
The families have responded positively by wanting to participate actively in the various programmes that IFB offers, such as our Annual National Forum Conference and the Master Class Seminars. Attendance at these events has been outstanding and best of all participation in terms of the open and frank communications among the families within the various forums has become a hallmark of the association.
Tell me about your membership – how many members, from what geographical areas, what sizes are their businesses?
To date a total of 47 family companies have joined the association coming from all parts of the UK. The majority of the members are well-established firms that have over three generations of family ownership. But there is growing interest from younger companies that want to learn from the experiences of the longer established firms. The members are often market leaders in their respective field of business and in terms of size are generally medium and large firms.
What have you found to be the biggest needs of your members (what are they asking for the most)?
The one requirement that the members share strongly is the need for sharing experiences. They use IFB as a platform for the exchange of information and best practice and there is a powerful sense of wanting to learn from each other. Education is after all at the core of IFB's mission and who better to be the source of learning than the families themselves.
How 'active' are your members in the organisation? How do you keep their interest levels high? (rather than just being members who solely pay dues)
It is extremely encouraging to note the high levels of participation by the members in all aspects of our educational and networking programmes. Holding our 2nd National Conference in Manchester put this to the test and we were very pleased that over half of the members came to the conference – some travelling large distances to be there.
Are you receiving support from other institutions/organisations? If so, what type?
We have to acknowledge that we have enjoyed excellent support from two directions in particular. We have received a very positive welcome from the academic community whom we rely upon for much of the content of our educational programmes. Without their commitment we would not be able to deliver the educational rigour and substance that our members are seeking. Our growing ties with London Business School who are embracing the issue of family business is a good illustration of this type of partnership. The other source of support are the commercial organisations that have provided direct assistance and financial support to help build the various programmes for the member families.
What do you think attracts families to the IFB?
IFB is an advocate for a strong and sustainable family business sector in the UK. The association helps in achieving this goal by allowing individual member companies the chance to regularly update their knowledge and benchmark their family firms practices against their peers. Many are investing in educational programmes for their families wanting to enhance and build on their existing capabilities. IFB simply adds a further dimension and to help the family firms achieve greater success and longevity.
Any trend in the make-up of your members (attracting a certain sector, certain age group, etc)?
We began to recognise early on that the membership is as geographically wide as is the country. We are starting to respond to this through the creation of regionally based programmes to bring IFB closer to the families. But we have still much to do in this respect to match the delivery of other well-established FBN chapters such as Spain
What has been the IFB's greatest accomplishment so far?
The biggest achievement is that the members have made this project their own and have participated actively in the programmes. This has heightened the learning and take-away value of the educational activities for the families themselves and earned us good ratings for the conferences and seminars to date.
What's on the horizon for the IFB?
Arguably the most exiting development has been the formation of the NextGeneration Forum. Working with this group of young owners and leaders we are creating a practical range of programmes that are addressing their unique issues. Next year will see the expansion of the activities offered to the NextGeneration Forum. Watch this space!