Over the past few decades, wealth in the United States and around the world has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of a small number of families. These families have steadily expanded their holdings, often starting with an operating business created by an entrepreneur and evolving into entities including trusts, holding companies, investment partnerships, family offices, and charitable foundations. Given this trend, it is almost inevitable that all MBA students will own, work for, invest in, or otherwise interact with family enterprises in their personal and professional lives. This six-week course will help students gain a nuanced understanding of family enterprises by exploring how they operate, how to understand and navigate their complexity, and how to think strategically about them.
The course will proceed from the perspective of family first and work through a timely case study that touches upon the key issues covered in class. Particular emphasis will be given the fact that the most important resource that fosters a successful family enterprise is its own “human capital,” namely, its family members. The ways and means of developing this resource, to enhance overall family wealth and to optimize the family’s important role in society, will be carefully explored. Technical issues, including legal concepts and structures that are specific to family enterprises, will also be examined. Guest lecturers will join the class to provide real-life context to the class discussion.
Students will leave the course prepared to more effectively own, manage, and interact with family enterprises, which will have a direct impact on their potential for future success, both personally and professionally.
Patricia Angus was a Columbia Business School faculty member from to 2016.