The growth of the family business club

MIT is the latest university to start a family business club
MIT is the latest university to start a family business club

If you’re about to go off and study for an MBA with an emphasis on family business studies, it might be a good idea to look at whether the university you want to attend has a family business club.

That’s because family business clubs at business schools are proving an increasingly useful way for universities and their students to engage with the next generation of family business leaders while they are studying for business degrees. Recently, MIT’s Sloan School of Management joined a long list of others that have launched a family business club. MIT says the purpose of the club is: “to build a community of MIT Sloan students who come from, plan to join or hope to start a family business”.

Harvard, Cornell, Columbia, London Business School, The Wharton School, INSEAD, ESADE and many more universities have launched family business clubs in the last few years for similar reasons that MIT decided to do so.

Usually, the clubs are set up by students and run by them. Jessica Kao, who’s studying for an MBA, was behind the launch of the club at MIT and is co-president of the group. She told the MIT Newsroom: “When you are thinking of running a business that involves parents, siblings, and multiple generations, there’s a lot to consider. So, the main reason for the club was to have a community of other students at Sloan who have that interest and want to be able to have a dialogue about that decision…and what it’s like working with family.”

Lise Moller, executive director of INSEAD Wendel International Centre for Family Enterprise, says family business clubs form a vital part of a student’s experience. “When students realise that there’s a club or centre for family businesses, they feel that they’re not alone – students can see that ‘some body else knows what I’m dealing with’. And these clubs provide a safe place for them – no one is trying to sell them anything.” 

Lise adds that universities benefit by building loyalty with students.  

The family business club at LBS hosts an annual conference, which pulls on speakers from family businesses as well as current students and alumni of the business school. The LBS club claims to have 850 members.

The social aspect of these clubs appears to be of paramount importance, with many students no doubt making lasting contacts with other future leaders of family businesses. And some might even find their partner at one of these clubs, given the fact that the club at LBS also offers speed dating events…