Content provided by Max Jones ’13 MBA -
History was made on a recent trip to the University of Vermont over winter break. Under the guidance of Entrepreneurship Professor Alex McKelvie, a team of Whitman School of Management MBA candidates, including Porsche Nichols, Kiven Pierre and myself, participated in the inaugural Family Enterprise Case Competition (FECC). The first annual FECC brought together a truly global array of participants, with students representing universities from as far away as Sweden, Malaysia, Spain, the Netherlands and various parts of Central and South America, joining together to identify and share perspectives on the issues and dilemmas unique to family enterprises. What made the inaugural FECC historical was the subject matter discussed. Although, according to the Family Firm Institute, family businesses generate an estimated 70% to 90% of global GDP annually, never before has a case competition been held with the unique issues of family enterprises as the sole focus of conversation.
As part of the competition, every team received a case full of information painting an oftentimes colorful picture of a particular family business dilemma. We were then sequestered for three hours in order to develop a set of analyses and recommendations that we would then be presenting to a panel of experts. Once the three hours were up, it was time to present our solutions for the family enterprise scenario described in the case, including an implementation plan for the solution, and its. The Whitman team won both of our head-to-head competitions, and three presentations total, but fell short of eventual FECC winner ESADE Business School from Spain.
Participating in the inaugural FECC at the University of Vermont was a terrific learning experience for me. As a fourth generation member of a family owned contracting business, I know well the tremendous opportunity and challenge that comes with addressing the trans-generational needs of a family business. I found the conversations on how successful family businesses manage not for short-term profits but rather for long-term market success most relevant. More importantly, the fact that all organizational stakeholders (yes… even mom) need to benefit was a useful takeaway. The FECC has provided me with not only a new respect for the challenges that family enterprises face, but also new ideas and innovations to approach these family business challenges moving forward.