School family research scholar marks 20th anniversary of his
into an area that had been under-explored by academics, John
Ward '67 helped remedy what he saw as a paucity of infor-mation
on family business.
later Keeping the Family Business Healthy remains a
touchstone for scholars of the subject. The text, published
in 1987, has earned recognition for being among the most-cited
books in its field.
What accounts for
its enduring value? "The book did a comprehensive job
of identifying the challenges for family business," said
Ward. Among these are issues related to succession and rebuilding
the organization after its entrepreneurial stage.
also sparked interest by presenting seminal data on the longevity
of typical family businesses — including the oft-cited
figure that only 13 percent of such businesses survive until
the third generation. Ward recalled his study, saying it was
"very excellent" but "very narrow," limited
to a sample of 200 Illinois companies.
20 years ago Ward was a pioneer outlining the challenges and
providing foundational data in a form that combined psychology
and business practice — a novelty for the time, said
Ward, clinical professor and co-director of the Kellogg
Center for Family Enterprise. Even today, his book remains
among the few approaching its subject from this blended perspective.
Author of four
other texts, an extensive collection of booklets and dozens
of articles, Ward is a leading family business expert who
continues to investigate new issues in the discipline. One
trend today: a shift to focus on the strengths of family businesses,
not just the weaknesses. "Research shows that family
businesses perform extremely well, despite their challenges,"
In fact, business
leaders in general are just starting to take notice, wondering
if they can export lessons from family enterprises, in-cluding
the long-term perspectives of families and the power of concentrated
ownership. The question remains open, but Ward will be chronicling