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.
While families have been in business for what seems like forever, a dedicated "field” of family business—a coherently defined area of systematic inquiry in which family enterprise is a discreet object of study—is surprisingly new.
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:
"Very early on in the development of our so-called field, it was obvious that there was interest in the family business from people in various arenas. It seemed to me that the only way that a field could develop was if there was some organizational structure through which these interests could coalesce. What was needed was a mechanism that would bring together the people who were looking at the major questions and issues related to family business.”
In 1984, in Los Angeles, the first "official” FFI meeting was held:
"It was an interesting meeting, because it raised many of the fundamental organizational issues that FFI has struggled with since…The splits among the various professions rapidly became apparent, as did the powerful gender dynamics that characterize the family business area…But I have always thought FFI was a very good idea. It was the only way to develop a field, since no one discipline has full access to the truth. We all need each other. Yes, it is a challenge, but most interesting things are.” (From Reflections of the Founder: A Conversation with Barbara Hollander, Family Business Review, vol. VI, No 3, Fall 1993)
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
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.
In 2009, to increase the visibility of FBR and acknowledge the academics who write and review for the journal, the FFI board established two FBR Awards: Best FBR Article and Outstanding FBR Reviewer.
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 1,600 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)
Launched in 2011, the FFI Global Education Network (GEN) is the educational arm of FFI. GEN is a global forum for teaching and learning that offers cutting-edge multidisciplinary courses for family enterprise advisors, consultants, academics, and other professionals. Courses are offered online and in hybrid formats and GEN students study and learn in cities across the globe and in their own homes or offices. Those enrolled in GEN use their acquired knowledge and global connections to collaborate, re-think, and transform the dynamic field of family enterprise.
The multidisciplinary core of FFI is being continually enhanced and expanded. In this regard, the pursuit of new disciplinary linkages by existing members, as well as the addition of new members from disciplines related to the study of family enterprise continues to be crucial to creating a vital body of theory and practices in the field of family enterprise.
FFI is committed to advancing the knowledge base of its members and contributing to the intellectual capital that supports the field. FBR will continue to be the preeminent scholarly journal for educators, practitioners and researchers. In addition, FFI is dedicated to sponsoring research such as the FFI Goodman Study on Longevity and Family Firms.
FFI will continue expanding its global view through the creation of new partnerships, chapters, publications, and various information sharing and networking tools. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent, family enterprises and those who work with them must develop new forms of collaboration.
The Legacy Fund
Sustained engagement and development in family business is key to the future. To that end, FFI maintains the Legacy Fund, a non-restricted endowment fund dedicated to enabling FFI to continue as a leader in the production and dissemination of family business knowledge and expertise.