Family Firm Institute

Yesterday, I made a quick day trip to mid-town Manhattan for the Family Firm Institute Annual Conference at the New York Marriot Marquis. It was well worth the drive, train ride, and walk to get to Times Square for the conference. FFI describes itself as “the global resource for intelligence, education, and professional development of the family business and family wealth fields. FFI serves as a think tank for the sharing of skills and knowledge, facilitate essential connections both domestically and cross-culturally, and provide vital interdisciplinary education for the advisors, consultants, educators and researchers dedicated to advancing the family enterprise.”

I’ve been familiar with the work of FFI for years. Our family has worked with advisors and consultants who have benefitted from their own membership in FFI. The organization is geared more towards the professionals who serve family businesses, but there is still a lot to learn from FFI if you are a family firm.  I was invited to attend the show by Family Business Publishing Group, the publishers of Family Business Magazine and several handbooks. I represented the YPO-WPO Family Business Network and Horst Engineering. It was great to meet up with several family business professionals and educators who I have known for years. The conference drew people from all over the world. I attended several workshops, including one that compared the epic Titanic disaster with family businesses. Using Titanic as a metaphor for family business failure was a clever idea hatched by Priscilla Cale of the University of Connecticut Family Business Program and David Tate of Yale University. Cale and Tate were entertaining. I’ve been witness to a few family business failures and I’ve read about  many others. They are never pretty. No one likes to be on a sinking ship…

I was bummed to miss the Wednesday evening kickoff and keynote address by mountaineer and filmmaker, David Breashears. Breashears has climbed Mt. Everest five times and his films, including the IMAX film, Everest, are really good. I did get to hear the Thursday keynote by Jonathan Tisch, the Chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels. Tisch has written some bestselling business books and leads Loews, which his family still owns 23%. The $17 billion firm is one of the leading travel businesses in the world, with luxury properties all over the globe. There are more than 30 2nd and 3rd generation Tisch Family members involved with the family business in one shape or another. He spoke eloquently about business and the challenges that the US economy faces, particularly in the travel sector. I was interested in hearing his comments because the travel industry woes have had a huge impact on the demand for products that we sell to the commercial aerospace industry.

Next year’s FFI conference will be in Chicago. This year’s trip was a short one, but I hope to explore more of FFI’s offerings in the future. The organization has had a major impact on the field of family business education/research for more than 23 years.

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