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Why this Initiative

The dynamics of family businesses cause their strategies to differ from that of other businesses. For example, timelines are often measured in generations rather than quarters; decisions may be made at the dinner table and the boardroom table; and a focus on talent development may begin long before a family member joins the workforce, let alone the payroll.

Business families in Western countries own and manage around 75% of all private firms and thereby contribute more than 60% to GDP and 50% to employment. Yet, research that aims to develop best practices for business families, associated professionals, and policy-makers is still in its infancy. Most research focuses on the needs of anonymous corporations rather than family businesses. The former have dispersed and passive shareholders while family businesses have well-known family owners leading their businesses in their communities.

While iconic business families such as Rothschild, Rockefeller or Bombardier have successfully built legacies over multiple generations, most actually fail to follow into these footsteps. The unique challenges that most business families – e.g., family succession, professionalization of the next generation – help explain their higher failure rate. They also fuel our motivation to conduct cutting-edge research and transfer evidence-based insights from the world of academia to the community of business families, associated practitioners, and policymakers.

Who We Are

The Business Family Initiative (BFI) is a unique venture within the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa that seeks to become the forum for collaboration amongst business families, their trusted advisors, and world-class researchers that dedicate their careers to supporting the long-term success and sustainability of family businesses and business families. 

We are a multidisciplinary initiative nested within the Telfer School of Management and conceived from the collaborative efforts and intentions of visionary family business leaders and academics in Canada. We address the topic of family business from within our varied backgrounds and look at it from a number of different perspectives based on the expertise of our professors and practitioners, i.e. management, entrepreneurship, accounting and finance, to name a few.

Moreover, we share strong ties with educators, practitioners, and business family networks, including: Business Families Foundation (BFF); Family Enterprise Xchange (FEX); Family Firm Institute (FFI); and The Family Business Network (FBN).

The academic leadership of the BFI is assumed by Dr. Peter Jaskiewicz. The University Research Chair in Enduring Entrepreneurship Dr. Peter Jaskiewicz is recognized as a leading global scholar in family business with a strong network of active research collaborators across five continents. Dr. Jaskiewicz is a prominent family business researcher, speaks at family business events, and advises business families in North America and Europe. He is also an editor of the leading academic journal on family business in the world, the Family Business Review, and the only editor of the journal located in Canada.

What We Envision

Our vision and intention is to progressively grow the strength and credibility of our family business team and the corresponding relationships with the family business sector in and beyond Canada. As we grow our community of expertise, we welcome collaborators that share our passion and commitment to supporting family business and business families. Over the next 10 years, we aim to become a leading international hub in thought leadership, education, and impact for family business. Our vision is to be:

  1. The thought leader that develops and shares best practices with business families, professionals, and the government on the sustainability of family businesses and their wealth
  2. The training ground that educates the next generation to assume responsible ownership and leadership of family businesses and their wealth

What We Focus On

Building upon the global leadership position of Prof. Peter Jaskiewicz in family business research and education, and Telfer’s strategic commitment to invest in this critical yet often overlooked field, we are positioned to engage in the full spectrum of activities from knowledge creation to knowledge dissemination to knowledge impact:

Specifically, the BFI aims to assume thought leadership and generate impact to support the sustainability and legacy of family businesses and their wealth by:

  • Cutting the failure rate of Canadian family firms in succession from about 25% to 22%. Such a reduction would contribute about $ 1 billion to Canadian GDP per year. To reach this goal, we are developing online and in-person executive education modules that will be shared with our students and the leading Canadian family business associations and networks to effect change and reach family businesses across the country.
  • Developing a code of best practices for sustainable family businesses in Canada. While many family business leaders instinctively find the right answers when faced with family issues in the business, others do not. Exemplary questions are: how can the preferential treatment of family talent in the firm be managed so that it is accepted by non-family employees? How should families prepare the next generation for assuming vast responsibilities regarding firm ownership and family wealth? To answer these and related questions, a code of best practices will be developed and integrated into our programming initiatives on and off campus.
  • Discovering the factors that enable family business legacies. The saying ‘from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations’ exists in most cultures. However, only a few family businesses manage to build legacies for 5, 15, 25 or even more generations. The success of these families remains poorly understood but is not a coincidence. We aim study long-lived family businesses to identify the factors that help and hinder the creation of sustainable legacies across generations. Based on these insights, we will develop the educational programs to help business families build and sustain their legacies.

News & publications

Family businesses are the backbone of all economies – including Canada’s, but are they all the same? How families are organized, what they care about, and how they pursue their unique goals is changing rapidly. Contemporary families are more diverse than ever before. Practitioners and scholars have recognized that differences among family firms are driven by the families behind the firms, but do all these families experience their business in the same way?

Professors Peter Jaskiewicz (Telfer School of Management), James Combs (University of Central Florida) and Sandra Schillo (Telfer School of Management) will examine how these differences impact family firm growth, performance, and survival in a new research project. The team has been awarded an Insight Grant by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Events & Activities

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