Common-sense and broad experience can go a long way toward finding solutions to the problems of family enterprises. But we believe that valuable knowledge can also be gained from good research and case histories.
We make use of our academic backgrounds to stay current with relevant work by business school researchers, family therapists, economic analysts, specialists in organizational behavior, and other social scientists. In addition, LGA maintains its own active research program. We do this not just because it informs our work with our own clients, but because we believe that remaining leaders in our profession requires contributing to the expansion of the knowledge base in our field.
Our projects are funded by foundations, public agencies, companies, and – in many cases – by the firm itself. We are committed to the broadest dissemination of findings from any of our research efforts.
BEYOND THE FOUNDATION: LGA and ncfp seek participants for research into different philanthropic avenues for families
A little over a decade ago, LGA and the National Center of Family Philanthropy partnered to develop and publish Generations of Giving: Leadership and Continuity in Family Philanthropy, which quickly became one of the field’s bedrock publications for donors and philanthropic families. In a follow-up to that landmark study, LGA is now co-sponsoring a research project with the NCFP to explore how complex business families are using a variety of vehicles beyond their family foundations to pursue philanthropic goals — including their personal philanthropy, donor-advised funds, corporate social responsibility programs, impact / mission-aligned investing strategies, and in some cases even their operating businesses.
We know that the structure and ways that complex multi-generational families manage and govern their shared and individual philanthropy have evolved, and we are searching now for a handful of pioneers in this area who would be willing to be interviewed. Specifically, we hope to interview families with a history of significant philanthropy for two or more generations, with members of at least two generations currently involved in some aspect of philanthropy, and with three or more active philanthropic structures in place.
Many of the families in our network have found the coordination of all these different activities to be a challenge. We are helping to fund this research in the hopes to learn from the experiences of families like yours so that we can offer guidance to other families and present aggregate findings to the field at large.
If interested, please contact the lead researcher for this project, Dr. Wendy Ulaszek (firstname.lastname@example.org), who will be happy to provide more project details.
organizational resilience: lessons from emerging and frontier markets
Family businesses the world over face the expected challenges of competitive markets and the added complexities of family engagement. Many business families, however, operate in especially uncertain environments where politics are unstable, economic policies are volatile, labor supply is vulnerable, and legal systems are capricious. Consider the risks of doing business in the “frontier” countries like Venezuela, Nigeria, Vietnam, and Iraq. Doing business in the more developed BRIC countries also has extra continuity complexity and investment risk.
With a grant from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, we are currently conducting research into corporate strategy and family enterprise under extreme adversity, and are hoping to discover fresh insights about how organizational systems respond to environmental risk of all sorts. Presently, we have assembled a database of over 150 distinguished family companies globally who operate in these kinds of environments and are now at the stage of conducting interviews with leaders within these family systems to deepen our understanding of the familial, governance, strategic and managerial practices that account for their success and resiliency.
FAMILY ENTERPRISE sustainability
Sustainability is achieved by "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” On one hand, the world is moving toward a more sustainable economy (renewable energy costs are declining and deployment is scaling up; millennials are breaking the trade-off between growth and environmental responsibility; consumers are more demanding that business track, report, and reduce climate impact). At the same time, technology, competition, and public policy are driving corporate leaders to focus on ever shorter-planning cycles. Modern financial markets make long-term commitments difficult: the average holding time for US equities has dropped from eight years in 1960 to eight months in 2016.
Closely-held family-controlled companies have the economic and emotional incentives to manage this dilemma, and to focus on organizational resilience and longevity. Research suggests that family firms tend to be more socially and environmentally responsible, exhibit greater concern about preserving their reputation for the long-term, and are more likely to adopt and integrate sustainability in their mission, strategy and thinking. How do the most successful and complex families do it? What wealth management approaches allow family businesses to capitalize on opportunities for sustainability, without compromising the ability of future generations (often increasingly numerous) to meet their own needs? What are the questions these families must ask themselves as they look for inter-generational and inter-branch alignment? How does a focus on sustainability affect governance, organizational design, finance, and business strategy, and does it work differently under family control?