Message from the Executive Director Fall 2019

Message from the IFE Newsletter, Fall 2019 (Inaugural issue)

Lauri Union

Welcome to our first Institute for Family Entrepreneurship (IFE) quarterly newsletter!  In these issues, we will be sharing Babson’s most updated thought leadership in the family entrepreneurship space, stories about Babson family businesses, and updates about activities at the IFE.

The IFE is a relatively new institute, formed in April 2018.  Our approach to the opportunities and challenges of business families is unique, so I often find myself politely correcting people about the name of our institute. “Actually, we are not the institute for family business (or family enterprise).  We are the Institute for Family Entrepreneurship.”  Why am I such a stickler about these word choices?  The reason is that the topic of “family business” is really a topic about a business – specifically how a family impacts a business they control.  Family Entrepreneurship, on the other hand, is about how the family as a system engages in entrepreneurial activity. “With their close relationships, high levels of trust and altruistic intentions, functional families are uniquely positioned to take advantage of entrepreneurial opportunities. Furthermore, initial research indicates that entrepreneurial activity on the part of families further enhances family functioning,” Associate Professor Matt Allen explained.  With our unique focus on how families can more effectively function together to create growth, Babson is taking a global leadership role in shaping this new academic and practitioner field.  You might think of our work as a merger between family dynamics and Babson’s legendary entrepreneurship practices. 

We care about this because entrepreneurial families create 70-90% of global GDP.  This means “these families are perhaps the greatest force for growth and positive change on the planet,” Bertarelli Distinguished Professor for Family Entrepreneurship William Gartner.  We know, first hand, that family entrepreneurship can be at least as challenging as it is rewarding.  I learned this while running and growing my own family’s business and while doing a turnaround of another family’s company.  Our mission is to help families achieve their shared entrepreneurship vision, tapping into the energy and vision of the younger generation and mobilizing the expertise and connection to legacy of the older generation. 

As you will see in Professor Gartner’s article in this issue, our research and teaching approach to these topics is innovative.  It is based on deep cross-generational exploration, experience sharing, storytelling, and role play designed to engage the family’s entrepreneurial legacy in ways that shape the entrepreneurial identity of the next generation.  Our conversations with hundreds of students and alumni from entrepreneurial families confirm the idea that many families face the exact same sets of challenges.  The intersection of the specific family, entrepreneurial activity, and individual make each circumstance unique, but because the underlying challenges are most often common across families, the value of experience-based shared learning in a moderated, confidential space is extremely high.

To represent our work, we have created our very own three-circle model which shows our focus on the nexus of entrepreneurial opportunity, family functioning and self-reflectivity.  Our courses and programs are all designed to explore this nexus and thereby amplify the capacity of families to create value together.

Family Entrepreneurship 3 circle model

In our first year of existence, we focused on developing a suite of programs to support our students on campus and to engage with their families.  In our second year, we are continuing to build these programs, while beginning to explore opportunities through which we can support our family entrepreneurship alumni community.  I want to thank the many people who helped us to launch this institute, including our IFE Board, the Babson leadership team, and the many students and alumni who have engaged with us.  If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, please complete our IFE Alumni Survey or reach out to me directly at