Contributed by: Mariana Polic
One of the highlights of our week is Monday afternoon, when Ivan, Tam Nguyen, and myself get to co-teach a class at the CalState University Fullerton called Family Business Dynamics. It is a management class specifically designed for students who come from family-owned companies, as well as students who are thinking of starting a business with their family members or even on their own. This is where they learn about how family dynamics affect business decisions and what are the challenges of having family owned and operated establishments; they get to explore all the benefits and pitfalls of succession, and transfers of management and governance between generations. When this opportunity presented itself thought the Family Business Center at the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, we were sure to jump on it, not just because we are passionate about sharing our experiences gained from running our family business, but also because we knew we were going to learn about some incredible family businesses from all over the world. Yes, our group is international, spanning over 4 continents and 6 countries. In fact, one of the students who comes from overseas is a third generation of a huge family conglomerate started by his grandfather, who was succeeded by 9 of children, who each proceeded to involve more than 50 of their off springs in the company! What’s even more impressive is that the governance of this immense company is very well organized, with only few of the usual challenges that family businesses face. Picking his company to be one of the case studies for the class was a no-brainer, as all of us are curious to learn what makes them work so well. Furthermore, we want to synthesize the information and make it accessible to other students to potentially implements in their businesses. We purposefully organized the first couple of classes of the semester with each student presenting about their family business- or an idea for a family business- so that we can design parts of the curriculum to specifically suit their needs. Every company and every family is different and facing various challenges, but they have same root causes. We teach them to recognize symptoms for what they are- symptoms of problems- and then show them how to address the cause in present time or in the future if they arise. This is where the value of this class lies. After every class, the three of us along with our teaching assistant, have a short session where we rehash the previous class and plan for the next one; and every time we gush about the students- how smart they are, how involved in their businesses since the young age, and how dedicated they are to taking all the knowledge they collect in the class to their respective companies and making them better. And because they ‘get it’ and are thirsty for knowledge, we are not afraid to teach them various skills and topics that are not in the syllabus that would serve them not just in business, but other areas of life as well. For instance, it is such an awesome experience seeing them light up as they learn about subtle communication styles they need to know in order to effectively address a business owner (who happens to be their parent!) and bridge the generation gap. Teaching this class has been one of the best experiences in our careers. Knowing that we are helping shape the next generation leaders in family businesses is very humbling. It is also inspiring and motivating for us, because we want to bring our best game to these young people who are ready to continue their families’ legacies and contribute to the growth of world’s economy. At the same time, we are also hoping to positively affect the dynamics within their families, by mending what’s broken and amplifying what’s already strong. And that is why every Monday afternoon is a highlight of our week. - Mariana
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