For over a quarter century, The Family Firm Institute (FFI) has been engaged in educating, connecting, and inspiring professionals who serve family enterprises. FFI is the leading association worldwide for family enterprise professionals and the organization of choice for the advisors, consultants, educators, and researchers who help perpetuate trans-generational family business wealth. In adopting a multidisciplinary and genuinely global perspective, FFI understands family enterprise as a fundamental driver of global economic growth, prosperity, and stability.
For its global network of professionals, educators, researchers, and family business members, FFI provides opportunities to participate in multidisciplinary educational programs and earn professional designation; enables collaboration at conferences, seminars and online; and creates a single space for interaction, cross-pollination of ideas, expertise and perspectives to further the field of family enterprise.
In fact, formal research devoted to family business only emerged in the past 60 years or so. And it was only through the vision of pioneering thinkers such as Barbara Hollander and Dick Beckhard that an inchoate but sorely needed multidisciplinary field was established with the founding of the Family Firm Institute (FFI) in 1986.
The continued prominence of the Family Firm Institute is testimony to the vibrant legacy of innovative and visionary thinking about how to understand and serve families in business. Over the course of its successful history, FFI has become the preeminent global forum for practitioners and academics to acquire exemplary interdisciplinary knowledge while engaging in collaborative opportunities that facilitate their professional and business development objectives.
The Early Years
As interest in the field of family business gained momentum, Barbara Hollander (1939-1993), who wrote one of the first empirical studies to emphasize the relationship between the family and the business, had an idea:
In 1984, in Los Angeles, the first "official” FFI meeting was held:
In late 1986, FFI was officially incorporated with 22 founding members.
A key priority for the founders was research—how to mold the field based on new concepts, qualitative studies, and quantitative research—to provide a solid basis for understanding family business. Fortunately for FFI, Jossey-Bass was also interested in the field at this time and became the first publisher of Family Business Review (FBR), the first and oldest scholarly journal in the field.
Originally, FBR was published by Wiley-Blackwell and today is published by SAGE. Recently ranked in the top 20 business journals in Thomson Reuters’ Journal Citation Reports, FBR remains the flagship journal in the field and a cornerstone of FFI. FBR first received an Impact Factor of .675 in 2007, then quickly grew to 1.357 in 2008, 1.881 in 2009 and 2.426 in 2010.In 2012, the impact factor was 2.622 and FBR ranked 19/116 in business journals. The Impact Factor, which measures the quality and impact of a publication on its field of study, is the ratio of citations from journals listed in the Social Science Citations Index in a given year to articles published in either the prior two or five years.
In 1989, the founding board of FFI took an additional step to ensure that research was key in FFI’s growth and development by creating awards for Best Doctoral Dissertation and Best Unpublished Research Paper.
Multidisciplinary Education and Practice
FFI’s founders considered annual conferences to be a key component of the organization’s educational offerings. Their objective was to convene a wide, multidisciplinary community of professionals who were interested in developing the field as well as delving more deeply into existing practices and emerging trends.
And they were successful! From the beginning, FFI’s annual conferences featured leading innovators, pioneers, and "out of the box” thinkers. FFI conferences are now known worldwide for their stimulating mix of presentations and opportunities to build professional collaborations.
In 1992, to further enhance its multidisciplinary approach to professionals, FFI began to establish awards for professional achievement. Today there are four:
Certificate Program and FFI Fellows
In 2000, FFI took the further step of institutionalizing a formal program for multidisciplinary education in the field of family enterprise. Two certificates were created, a Certificate in Family Business Advising and a Certificate in Family Wealth Advising.
By taking this leadership role, FFI has established itself as the premier provider of education for professionals in the family business and family wealth areas.
The certificate program was inaugurated in October 2001 at the London Metropole when 82 people were designated as FFI Fellows. This ceremony marked the beginning of the FFI certificate program. Those present received their certificate from family business owner, Monty Moss, of London-based Moss Bros, a men’s clothing specialist company started in 1860, and FFI president, François de Visscher.
The first fellows came from six different countries and encompassed the core disciplines—law, finance, management science, and behavioral science. As of 2014, the FFI Fellows numbered 182 and came from 17 countries. They include advisors and consultants from the family business and the family wealth fields and continue FFI’s long tradition of intellectual and professional diversity.
For more than 25 years, FFI has globalized its membership, broadened and deepened its educational and professional programs, and continually enhanced its activities and services. Today, FFI is a professional membership association comprised of more than 1,800 individuals and organizations from across the globe.
For the many outstanding professionals who constitute FFI’s membership there are exciting challenges ahead. As the Family Firm Institute continues to lead in the area of family enterprise work, one new initiative and four current areas are being advanced simultaneously.
FFI Global Education Network (GEN)
The Legacy Fund