For more than thirty years, 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 advisers, consultants, educators, and researchers who help perpetuate trans-generational family business enterprise. In adopting a multidisciplinary and 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 enterprise members, FFI provides opportunities to participate in multidisciplinary educational programs and earn professional designations; enables collaboration at conferences, seminars, and online; and creates a single space for cross-pollination of ideas, expertise, and perspectives to further the field of family enterprise.

While families have been in business for most of recorded history, a dedicated field of family business is relatively new. For example, formal research devoted to family business only emerged in the 20th century, and it was only through the vision of pioneering thinkers such as Barbara Hollander and Dick Beckhard that a multidisciplinary field was established with the founding of the Family Firm Institute in 1986.

The Early Years

Interest in the field of family business gained momentum when, in 1983, Barbara Hollander wrote one of the first empirical studies emphasizing the relationship between the family and the business.

“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 1986, FFI was officially incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 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 enterprise.

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 scholarly journal in the field. FBR was subsequently published by Wiley-Blackwell and today is published by SAGE.

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 two awards:
Best Doctoral Dissertation
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
Outstanding FBR Reviewer

Multidisciplinary Education & Practice

FFI’s founders considered annual conferences to be a key component of the organization’s educational offerings.

Their objective was to convene a multidisciplinary community of professionals and academics who were interested in developing the field. FFI annual global conferences have consistently featured leading innovators, pioneers, and “out of the box” thinkers.

To further enhance its multidisciplinary approach to practice, FFI established four awards for professional achievement:
The Richard Beckhard Practice Award
The Barbara Hollander Award
The Interdisciplinary Achievement Award
The International Award

Certificate Program & FFI Fellows

In 2000, FFI took the further step of institutionalizing a formal program for multidisciplinary education in the field of family enterprise.

The FFI Global Education Network (GEN) is the most trusted and globally recognized provider of family enterprise professional education in the world. FFI GEN Certificates in Family Business Advising and Family Wealth Advising are the product of more than 30 years of practice and research in the field. These certificate programs are unique in that they provide students with trusted, time-tested knowledge and skill development using a multidisciplinary approach in a convenient online format.

FFI Today

Since 1986, FFI has globalized its membership, continually developed its educational and professional programs, and enhanced its activities and services. Today, there are nearly 2,000 individuals and organizations from more than 80 countries who are members of FFI.

Approximately 75 percent of FFI members are professionals, representing disciplines from family enterprise consulting, to legal and financial services, to behavioral and management sciences. Approximately 20 percent are academics, educators, and students from the world’s premier universities and colleges and 5 percent are family enterprise members.

FFI continues to advance the field through its mission to be the most influential global network of thought-leaders in the field of family enterprise and to provide research-based learning and relevant tools for advisers and consultants, academics and family enterprise members to drive success. Together our members create the oldest and most prestigious multidisciplinary professional association for family enterprise in the world. Its vision remains the same – to educate, connect and inspire.

Since sustained engagement of membership and development of programs and services are key to the future, the board of directors has established the Legacy Fund, a non-restricted fund dedicated to enabling FFI to continue as a leader in the production and dissemination of family business knowledge and expertise.