Business Families Centre

Market research spotlight - what family business members most want to learn

Comprehensive business knowledge.  Individual leadership development.  Improved understanding of family business dynamics.

What Family Members Want to Learn

A recent study by the Business Families Centre (BFC) at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business has uncovered these as the top concerns of today’s family firms.

Family business education is still a relatively new field, and historically the focus has been on tried and true topics like succession and governance.  “While the importance of these subjects remains,” says Chira Perla, the BFC’s Program Director, “we were curious if they were still the main things that keep business families up at night and should continue to form the core of our educational programming and community outreach.”

To test this, the BFC conducted a survey of 130 family business members across Canada.  The respondents ranged in age from 18-65, generally had at least some post-secondary education, and largely had under 20 years of experience working in their family firm (40% had under 10 years).

When asked to rank topics they felt they could most benefit from in a family business course, overwhelmingly respondents chose core business topics (e.g., accounting, finance, strategy, innovation) as what they’d most like to learn, followed by leadership, and then family business dynamics.  Conversely, traditional family business education topics did not fare well: governance and succession both ranked at the bottom of the list.

“While initially perhaps surprising, these results actually represent a very positive trend in family business education,” says Perla.  “As more business families are educating themselves and becoming quite savvy on family enterprise basics, they are seeking information, help, and support on more complex topics, such as building business acumen specific to family firms, considering innovation and entrepreneurship in a family enterprise, and understanding how to use personal and family values to develop a leadership style and brand.  These subjects are particularly salient to the next (or rising) generation of family enterprise leaders, whose identification, role, and training should be squarely on every family business’ radar.”

To meet this demand, the BFC has developed new programming and resources designed to provide family firms with the content they’re seeking.  In particular, the professional development course Business Fundamentals for Family Enterprises, running for the first time this October, has full days devoted to examining accounting and finance fundamentals, leadership, and family dynamics specifically from the family firm perspective .  “It’s an exciting new course for us,” says Perla, “as it allows us to focus on some new subject areas and also leverage the Sauder School of Business’ top faculty in fields that traditionally do not emphasize the family business context or experience.”


Please visit the Business Fundamentals for Family Enterprises course page for more information on the program or to register.