​Family Business Curriculum & Resources

“The Family Business guest speaker roster features many of the top family business leaders in the country. It is exciting to learn from these leaders how each family crafts its own solutions to the fundamental issues of control, governance, and succession.”

–Spencer Burke, Senior Executive, The St. Louis Trust Company

In typical business school coursework, students review cases as they learn to confront real-world problems. In the Olin Family Business Program, cases center on family-owned business challenges, allowing students to explore and discuss issues unique to family businesses.

Olin faculty are skilled teachers who use cases and other classroom learning to expose students to the changing dynamics at play when the company is closely held.

The Family Business Program also presents a graduate-level elective course, “Topics in Closely Held and Family Businesses,” introducing students to the unique governance and financing issues faced by these firms. Taught by The St. Louis Trust Company Senior Executive, Spencer Burke, the course centers on:

  • Their ubiquity. How many family-owned businesses are there and how do they prefer to work with one another?
  • Succession planning and growth. These issues are critical in cases where the distribution of assets will become an issue as the business spans future generations.
  • Lack of transparency. Often, closely held businesses hold information close to the vest, which constituents—both internal and external—may view as being secretive.
  • Competing motives. Profit may not be the only success driver for leaders in family-owned businesses. They can be more purposeful, but their purposes may vary.
  • Lines of authority. The person who truly holds the reins of the business may not be the one with the title or the corner office. Understanding that can impact success in dealing with a family business.
The course is aimed at students considering working for a family-controlled business; entrepreneurs who build successful businesses and want to remain privately owned; and students seeking work in industries that frequently call on the owners of family businesses, including private equity, investment banking, and legal and wealth management.


A student-run family business club presents speakers and guests who provide insights and strategies for confronting the challenges and opportunities that family business owners and managers face.

Additionally, private-sector analyses are available that explore the issues, motivations, and results at play among family-owned and closely held businesses.

The Family Business Model, Credit Suisse: Family-owned businesses are not just key drivers of economic growth, but they are also key employers. This makes it imperative to understand how and why these companies perform, and how they will affect macroeconomic policies and stock market performance.

The Family-Business Factor in Emerging Markets, McKinsey & Company: What must organizations understand about family businesses in order to collaborate—or compete—with them in emerging markets?