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Interview with the president of the Family Firm Institute — Judy Green

2.5.2016 —

Family Firm Institute (FFI) is the oldest and most prestigious multidisciplinary professional association for family enterprises in the world. We are pleased to publish an interview with the FFI president Judy Green on our website.

Since many professionals and family business members in the Czech Republic are not familiar with FFI, can you give us a short introduction?

Family Firm Institute (FFI) was founded in 1986 by a small group of people in the US (about 15!) who wanted to establish a field for professional advising and academic research that would be unique to family enterprise. Their approach was to engage people from what we call the core disciplines – behavior science, finance, law and management science – to work collaboratively to address the opportunities and challenges provided by multi-generational family enterprises. As the years went by, this cross disciplinary approach was augmented by a cross-cultural approach. Today there are more than 1800 FFI members in 80+ countries. The mission is:

„… to be the most influential global network of thought-leaders in the field of family enterprise. We provide research-based learning and relevant tools for advisors and consultants, academics and family enterprise members to drive success.”

How important are family firms for the future? What are, generally and globally, the main challenges for family firms?

Depending on what research you read and what definition of „family firm“ you use, this form of business organization comprises 50%-90% of the world’s economy so it is in everyone’s best interest that these companies to succeed. Having said that, I would emphasize that the sophistication, financial viability and family commitment to these companies varies widely as do the challenges. For some firms, the succession/transition issues are primary; for others raising capital; for many the role of the family members and the appropriate interaction with the business and non-family members is the biggest challenge. And then there are the industry specific challenges, so it’s hard to generalize. Part of what has been learned over 30 years is that there is huge variety in the organization and governance of family-owned companies – even in one company as it moves through generations or acquires or creates new companies.

Regarding family business advising and consulting — this is a very new and dynamic field and for businessmen it is very difficult to select an appropriate expert. Do you have any advice on this – i.e. how shall they choose?

I would say that any family business owner contemplating hiring an advisor should ask what education he or she has beyond the core discipline. Given that the field is now 30 years old, there is no reason for a family business advisor not to have specialized education. In addition to the Global Education Network (GEN) programs and certificates offered by FFI, there are courses and workshops offered nearly every day around the world, in person and online, for professionals to continue their education. This is especially important with regard to the so-called „soft side“ of advising. Families have complex dynamics and businesses have equally complex dynamics, so when you put these two together, you will undoubtedly encounter some unique challenges. An advisor who does not have some behavioral science or organizational development training should definitely have colleagues who can be brought into the consultation as appropriate so that there is a holistic approach and ”unintended consequences“ are thought through on numerous levels.

As FFI and its members are also academics and researchers in the area of family firms, I would like to ask – what are (or better what should be) the main topics for researchers currently and in the following few years?

FFI is the owner of the oldest journal in the field – Family Business Review, first published in 1988. In recent years other journals or special issues in related journals have contributed research on family-owned companies. What seems to be missing, however, is research on the advisory and consulting side, e.g., many advisors automatically recommend the creation of a family council or a family protocol, yet there is little research on the efficacy of this recommendation, either immediately or across time. This is just one example of how little we know about the impact of the profession on the health and well-being of the family enterprises with which they work. There is anecdotal commentary but the research is still lacking for the most part.

Finally, if possible I would like to ask you for one last recommendation or message to Czech businessmen and advisors active in the area of family firms.

Join FFI! Become a part of this dynamic network of professionals, educators and researchers as well as family enterprise members from across the globe. Together they create the oldest and most prestigious multidisciplinary professional association for family enterprises in the world and more insights, contributions and research from and on the Czech Republic would be fantastic.


Stanislav Servus

Stanislav Servus je zakladatelem portálu a advokát, který se ve své více než dvacetileté praxi zaměřuje na oblast správy a ochrany rodinného majetku, oblast korporátních projektů, M&A a vytváření společných podniků. Stanislav se též dlouhodobě věnuje problematice rodinných firem, jejich vedení i vlastnictví, mezigeneračnímu transferu kapitálu, tématu svěřenských fondů, dědického plánování, a systému tzv. family business governance (včetně vytváření rodinných ústav).