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Sample Course Overview

Below you will find a sample overview for one of the courses offered by the Center for Family Enterprises and the Department of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences. The course can be applied to majors in Entrepreneurship and Management & Strategy.

Family Enterprises: Issues and Solutions
Winter Quarter
Professor John L. Ward
Course Topic Outline

Most of the world's economy is comprised of family controlled firms. Many Kellogg School students come from business-owning families or families involved in a collective philanthropy or investing. This course addresses the special issues of family enterprises, including succession, governance, strategy, family dynamics, culture, philanthropy, and family offices. The course will benefit those from business-owning families, as well as their advisors. The class will involve case discussions, guest speakers, field or research assignments and presentations on new ideas in family enterprise.

Session 1: The Performance, Problems, and Paradoxes of Family Enterprises

  • What is a family business?
  • How family firms perform
  • The role of family firms in the economy
  • The family business paradigm

Session 2: Balancing Family and Business

  • "Shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in 3 generations"
  • 3 circles model
  • Resolving the family versus business paradox
  • Evaluating "family first" versus "business first" orientation

Session 3: Generational Evolution of Business Families

  • The life cycle of the business, the family, the individual
  • Forms and structures of ownership
  • Critical issues for continuity

Session 4: Family Dynamics

  • Understanding how families work
  • Systems analysis and conflict management
  • The family code
  • Genograms

Session 5: Entry, Succession, Continuity

  • Dilemmas for successors
  • Negotiating entry
  • "Letting go" and "taking charge"
  • Succession/continuity task force

Session 6: Family Business Strategy and Competitive Advantage

  • How strategy is different for family firms
  • How family factors shape business strategy
  • Competitive advantage and unconventional strategy

Session 7: Perpetuation, Culture, Values, Change

  • Cultural contradictions to growth
  • Financing continuity
  • Family meetings and family councils

Session 8: Family Continuity Planning

  • Family planning process
  • Gaining family unity and commitment
  • Family constitution/protocol
  • "Fair process" and trust

Session 9: Governance and Ownership

  • Independent directors
  • Roles and responsibilities of ownership
  • Family vision

Session 10: The Enterprising Family

  • Family offices, family foundations and family investment companies
  • "Best practices" of long lasting families-in-business--a course summary
©2001 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University