Business Families Centres

Research matters: advising the family firm - a summary

What do we know after 30 years of research?

Who gives advice to family firms? What kind of advice do they give? And is the advice valuable? These are the questions that I look to answer in my article “Advising the Family Firm: Reviewing the Past to Build the Future”, published in the Family Business Review.

After reviewing 30 years of research and analyzing more than 105 studies, I became aware of the importance of advisors to family firms’ success and survival. Advisors provide positive business and family outcomes, including enhanced business outcomes such as decision quality, increased planning, and improved firm performance, and improved family outcomes such as increased family unity, working cooperatively, and fewer conflicts.

Advisors are especially salient to family firms as these firms must balance both the business and family systems, and the overlap between the two. Family firm advisors help to achieve this balance. In doing so they must often fill multiple roles and are privy to the most intimate secrets of the family, the sacrosanct areas. With this knowledge family firm advisors can do much good, however this knowledge also provides them with the opportunity to do much harm.

Yet, while advisors play a crucial role within family firms, there remains to date a lack of rigorous academic research. What is needed is more collaboration between practitioners and researchers to both develop theory and to inform practice.

INSEAD Associate Professor Filipe Santos wrote an article for KPMG summarizing the insights on this research. Read the summary written by Professor Santos.

Dr. Vanessa M. Strike holds the CIBC Professorship in Applied Business Family Studies and oversees the strategic, research, and academic direction of the Business Families Centre. She is an Assistant Professor in Sauder’s Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources Division. To read the full study, please see Vanessa M. Strike (2012), Advising the Family Firm: Reviewing the Past to Build the Future. Family Business Review, 25 (2), 156-177.