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Pioneering scheme to support rural family businesses in Devon and Somerset is launched at the Univer

A launch event has been held at the University of Exeter for a pioneering scheme which will bring international family business expertise to the tables of rural family firms and farms across Devon and Somerset. 

The Family Business Growth Programme is a year-long pilot scheme which has received funding from the government's Rural Growth Network to support hundreds of rural family businesses that are vital to the regional economy.   

Twenty four representatives from professional firms and not-for-profit organisations in Devon and Somerset are among the first to participate in the programme which, if successful, could be rolled-out nationally next year. 

The programme, which was launched on Thursday 28th March at the University of Exeter's Reed Hall with an initial briefing session, includes a two day intensive masterclass in May at the world-class business school, the Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne, Switzerland.  

The delegates, who include lawyers, accountants, land agents and business advisers, will learn about issues unique to family businesses such as succession planning and developing family constitutions. The specialist training course has been developed by the IMD and will be taken back to the Westcountry to help advise as many rural family businesses and farms as possible. The commercial organisations are paying a £2000 contribution towards the cost of the masterclass and will be expected to provide initial business advice free of charge to family firms on a first come, first served basis. 

The project is being co-ordinated by the family-owned land management business Clinton Devon Estates and is being monitored and evaluated by Dr Matt Lobley, co-director of the Centre for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter.  

Dr Lobley said: "The course will enhance the skills and knowledge of the professional advisors who, in turn, will enhance the rural family businesses who support and grow the rural economy."  Dr Lobley added: “The programme evaluation will involve visiting the family businesses which have been advised by the course participants, to see whether the advice they received has had a positive impact, for instance if they have implemented a family constitution and succession plan.  At the end of the programme we will make recommendations on how the course can be rolled-out nationally,” 

The target is for the professional advisors to engage with between 40 and 100 firms and businesses, thirty percent of which are farming businesses. 

Among the professional firms on the Family Business Growth Programme are legal firms Everys and Michelmores, accountants Francis Clark and Albert Goodman, land agents Smiths Gore and Savills. The not-for-profit organisations attending include Duchy College, West Devon business advisors BIP, the Countryside Landowners Association (CLA) and the Tenant Farmers Association.  

Two Devon-based rural family firms will also attend and their progress will be studied by the group as part of the programme. They are tenant farmers Peter and Di Wastenage from Budleigh Salterton in East Devon and Patrick McCaig from the family-run Otter Brewery. 

Family businesses interested in receiving advice should contact who is co-ordinating the Family Business Growth Programme. 

The Rural Growth Network (of which the Rural Growth Programme is a part) is a government initiative designed to boost Devon and Somerset’s rural economy by £40 million. It is being administered by the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership. 


Representatives from the following organisations are attending the Family Business Growth Programme: 


Professional Firms:
Clinton Devon Estates
Francis Clark
Smiths Gore
Albert Goodman
Clarke Willmott
Lloyds TSB Agriculture

 Not-for-profit organisations:

North Devon Plus
West Devon BIP
Rural Business School, Duchy College
Bicton College
Exmoor Hill Farm Project



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