Learning Families are Thinkers with the Benefit of Foresight

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Family enterprises can find greater confidence through powerful learning paths.

Certainty offers a measure of comfort. Yet we live in uncertain times and these days economic uncertainly sits high up on our lists of concerns.

What should entrepreneurial families do? What tools are at our disposal when markets sour or are under threat of trade wars, environmental crises, or lately, a global pandemic?

There is family learning.

The Latin aphorism scientia potentia est – knowledge is power – comes to mind. More than a modern-day platitude, entrepreneurial families are showing encouraging signs of setting upon deeper learning paths, avenues towards fortifying the sustainability of their enterprises, and harmonizing family relations.

In terms of family learning, 58% of family enterprises believe they should learn more about leveraging their existing skills, according to FEF’s Family Learning Discovery, which enables users to gauge their family enterprise’s strengths and shortcomings and act on them.

Enterprise Longevity

Few business leaders dispute the value of education. Yet many family enterprises stand to benefit from a deeper understanding of the issues that influence their day-to-day operational success. Longer-term, enterprise longevity is at stake, and that calls into question delicate issues of family purpose, business vision governance, and so on.

FEF data show that 25% of enterprising families allocate moderate to high dollar amounts towards family learning. That means only one in four value learning enough to consistently spend money on it. The bigger question is why do so many entrepreneurial families spend little or nothing on education and training?

Families need many more learning champions

A significant number of families have learning champions, that is to say, those who vigorously encourage different forms of family learning to equip family with skills that promote enterprise growth and family ownership. But far more do not. Why?

These days family enterprises can be forgiven for goals that focus on immediate survival. As for economic recovery? Not until 2021. The International Monetary Fund has lowered its global growth forecast for this year and next in the wake of the pandemic. It now predicts a decline of 4.9% in 2020, substantially worse than its forecast only 11 weeks ago in April.

Economic Challenges

The biggest contractions in economic activity envisaged by the IMF this year are in developed economies particularly in North America and Europe. Canada is likely to be one of the deepest with a decline of 8.4%; our trading partner to the south will see its economy shrink 8%.

This underscores the need for learning. But what are entrepreneurial families’ propensities and attitudes to learning? Prior to the pandemic, about 25% believed their families needed lifelong education to stay competitive.

Even universities themselves must take their share of the blame in limiting students’ capacity to learn. Early on in the pandemic many hastily switched to online learning modules with less than optimal results. The chaos that ensued has left students second-guessing their decisions to study.

Meanwhile, at private fee-paying colleges and universities, refunds have become a hot issue with students sent home in the pandemic. It is one thing to pay for a service not rendered, quite another to be deprived of an education altogether as institutions scramble to rethink how they deliver – or don’t – their core services. Of all organizations shouldn’t they have been better prepared?

Cherish Learning

Now is the time for learning to be cherished and take on greater value not less. As the coronavirus crisis runs its course, enterprising families should adopt an active posture towards learning – a readiness for the future.

Our data shows that only 12% believe their family attitudes towards learning to be “ingrained”. One conclusion to be drawn: learning is on families’ radar, but they may not know how to act. Many families are ill-equipped in this regard. But some are star pupils with sharp ideas of their purpose, their vision and their governance.

FEF is on the cusp of launching phase two of Family Learning Discovery, which will enable enterprising families to take a deeper dive into isolating their strengths and weaknesses and following custom learning paths.

We may live in times of deep uncertainty, but lifelong learning can help enterprising families mitigate risk, anticipate events, and remain nimble in the face of difficult trading conditions.

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