John Smedley is a 234-year-old family business based in the UK. It specializes in knitwear within the premium-luxury sector and still operates from its original manufacturing location in Lea Mills, Derbyshire. The management of change in order to cope with continuous market shifts has been a key feature of the firm since its inception, as evidenced in John Smedley’s business sustainability over three centuries. These transformations include shifts from a manufacturer to brand perspective, and from mono- to multichannel wholesale, to sustain growth whilst retaining private family ownership. Business environment change presents both a challenge and an opportunity for John Smedley, which today is faced with a need to adapt to a business landscape that is being disrupted by global e-commerce, extensive global outsourcing, and increasingly connected consumers. For John Smedley, navigating this new world is critical to sustaining future business expansion.
Family business research has been growing over the past two decades yet is still considered an emergent field of study with there being a greater need for specific research into addressing the complexity of decision-making in family businesses and how this differs to nonfamily organizations This case study highlights some of the characteristics and issues unique to family business decision-makers and asks students to consider how family firms should approach business transformation. Students will discuss the core competencies and capabilities that are required to identify and overcome the challenges within a family business and how these might be distinct from nonfamily businesses