Introduction to Family Business Management

Lecturer: Prof. Alfredo De Massis
Degree: Bachelor in Economics and Management @ Free University of Bozen-Bolzano
Semester: 2nd

Educational objectives

The course refers to the complementary educational activities chosen by the student and belongs to the scientific area of Business Administration and Strategic Management. However, the study of family business is naturally multidisciplinary, drawing on a wide range of management disciplines.
Family businesses are the most ubiquitous form of business organization globally and the enduring influence of families on business and society is an essential part of the backbone of any world economy. In Italy and Germany, more than 90% of the businesses are family-owned or –managed, including many of the largest publicly listed firms. Family enterprising is particularly important in South Tyrol, and, more in general, Northern-East Italy, where family businesses and business families traditionally drive entrepreneurial activity and provide local communities with employment and stability playing a leading role in the social and economic wealth creation of the region.
While family businesses make up the overwhelming majority of all business enterprises, business schools have largely overlooked the unique and complex challenges associated with their management. Family businesses are different from other profit-seeking organizations due to the family’s influence on the firm’s strategic goals, governance structures and competitive resources. Sometimes, the distinctive traits of family businesses correspond to unique strengths and competitive advantages, but they can also cause severe organizational dysfunctions that may ultimately lead to poor firm performance. What is more, international figures show that only a minimal number of family firms survive generational transitions.
This course provides students with fundamental knowledge and basic tools to build an enlightened understanding of how to work entrepreneurially and professionally, in and with family firms, and manage the unique challenges and dilemmas faced by family businesses effectively. Topics covered include fundamentals of management and economics in the context of family firms, family business governance, innovation, growth and entrepreneurial management, introduction to succession and generational transitions, family-centered goals and goal setting processes, strategic management and decision making in family firms, internationalization, stakeholder management and fundamentals of family business branding.
This course will be of benefit to those students who are members of a family with established business interests, will likely find themselves working for a family-owned firm, and/or might be associated with such organizations in a professional capacity through such roles as consultant, accountant, lawyer, banker or even researcher.
Course lectures include guest lectures from local, national and international family business leaders, consultants and experts, consistent with the practice-oriented nature of this course and the goal of the Unibz Centre for Family Business Management to foster interactions and connections between the students and the surrounding business and entrepreneurial community.

Topics covered

  • Definitions and distinctive traits of family firms
  • Circles, stages, theories and models
  • Fundamentals of business administration and decision making in family firms
  • Governance in family firms
  • Power and succession in family business
  • Managing family and business strategies
  • Managing innovation and technological change in family firms
  • Open innovation in family firms
  • Goals and goal setting in family business
  • Sustainability and corporate social responsibility in family firms
  • Guest lectures from family business leaders, consultants and experts