John A Davis, who has taught at Harvard for 20 years and owns a respected family business consultancy, is one of the best-known voices in the world of family business. We caught up with him and quizzed him about his latest thinking.
BF: What do you think are the biggest issues facing family businesses?
JD: Most people are looking at how family companies stay successful, but there is a big, big question that I think most people in the field haven’t caught on to yet, and that is how families stay successful over generations, financially, in terms of the talent the family has, and in terms of family unity.
And within that big big issue is the one of how we make generational transition. Most people are still stuck talking about management succession and sometimes it broadens to management and ownership succession, but the fundamental transition is broader than that.
And to start answering that, you have to think about how families partner across generations.