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Innovative Research Project Seeking Participants

Have you thought about how to develop the next generation of leadership in your family firm?  Specifically, what kind of work experience they should be required to have?  Inside the family business or outside?  Starting at what age?  Formal position or informal?  Assigned mentors or formal bosses?

We invite you to participate in an innovative research project, focused on investigating “perspectives on family business successor’s work and non-work experience”.

One of the most debated topics regarding succession is whether or not successors (and all owners for that matter) should be required to work outside the family business before entering management positions.  This research aims to explore whether outside work experience makes any difference at all and if so to determine when it helps and when it hinders successor development and succession. The research will also explore what other experience may enhance or hinder successor development and succession success.

There is currently no research in the family business field describing what kind of successor experience leads to desirable outcomes in leadership development, business success and growth, stronger and healthier family, longevity of the business, and a host of other outcomes that may be important to the owning family.  Hence, there is little guidance available to family enterprises for making the decisions that would work for them.  The research team addresses the issue of “successor experience” by investigating many family businesses in a variety of contexts to develop a guiding framework.

All interactions of our team with you are assured of confidentiality.  You will receive copies of our findings with you in writing, as well as orally, if so desired.

If you agree to participate, it would involve a 90 minute interview with myself and one other researcher from our team.  To have a more holistic view, we would also request interviews with others in your family business (e.g. other family members, long-time family manager, etc.).  We anticipate that this process would take one-half of a day.  I will come to your office for the interviews.

I’m part of a research team with years of experience in dealing with family business issues empathetically, with an eye both on practical relevance as well as academic rigor:

  • Dr. Joseph Astrachan, Wells Fargo Eminent Scholar Chair of Family Business,

Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship, Coles College of Business, Kennesaw State University.  Joe is a co-author of the recent EY report, Staying Power, how do family businesses create lasting success: Global Survey of the World’s Largest Family Businesses.  Joe is a Smith Family Business Academic Scholar at Cornell University.

  • Dr. Sanjay Goel, Associate Professor of Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship, University of Minnesota Duluth.   

  • Dr. Ray Jones, Assistant Professor of Management, University of Minnesota Duluth.  Ray was one of my SBU MBA students and we co-authored a case study of his regional family business, TransAmbulance.

I will reach out to you to follow-up. In the meantime, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] or 716.474.6833.

Thank you for your consideration.

Carol B. Wittmeyer, Ed.D.
Associate Professor of Management & Family Business Club Advisor
St. Bonaventure University
Smith Family Business Academic Scholar at Cornell University


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