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Managing the Family Business

Course code
Course type
MSc Course
Weekly Hours
FS 2021
Juniorprof. Dr. Julia Katharina de Groote
Please note that exchange students obtain a higher number of credits in the BSc-program at WHU than listed here. For further information please contact directly the International Relations Office.

Family business management is an important topic, as family businesses constitute a significant segment of the global economy. Worldwide around 80% of all businesses are classified as “family businesses.”

Managing a family business can be especially challenging as family considerations add additional levels of complexity to the tasks of management and can make managing either easier or more difficult or in some cases both at the same time depending on the circumstances. Recent research has shown that family businesses, on average, outperform and last longer than non-family businesses. This course will introduce students to the peculiarities of family businesses and how to successfully manage them.

Topics include:

  • Definition and prevalence of family businesses
  • Governance in the family business
  • Strategic management in the family business
  • Family firms & innovation
  • Succession in the family business
  • Change and transgenerational value creation
  • Financial management in the family business
  • Relationships and conflicts in the family business
  • Creating family businesses


- Writing of case study 30% (group work)

- Reflection paper 40% (individual)

- In class participation 30% (individual)

Date Time
Friday, 12.03.2021 15:30 - 17:00
Wednesday, 17.03.2021 08:00 - 09:30
Wednesday, 24.03.2021 11:30 - 13:00
Tuesday, 30.03.2021 15:30 - 18:45
Wednesday, 07.04.2021 09:45 - 13:00
Tuesday, 13.04.2021 11:30 - 15:15
Wednesday, 14.04.2021 15:30 - 18:45
Monday, 19.04.2021 15:30 - 18:45
Wednesday, 21.04.2021 09:45 - 13:00
  • Understand the characteristics that differentiate a family business from other businesses
  • Understand the significance, diversity and complexity of family businesses
  • Understand and reflect on the uniqueness of the challenges facing both family businesses and business families
  • Understand and reflect on the different perspectives of various stakeholders associated with family businesses
  • Analyze the managerial and governance practices that can help improve the effectiveness and longevity of family firms
  • Understand the life cycles of family businesses from the perspective of business, family and ownership and apply this knowledge to analyze real world situations
  • Analyze family firm specific problems and situations in the context of real world problems and realistic case studies
  • Reflect on best practices and explore emerging trends in family business management and apply these to solve realistic case studies
  • Effectively understand family businesses when working for or with one in order to be able to make recommendations for complex problems
Zellweger, T. (2017). Managing the family business: Theory and practice: Edward Elgar Publishing. Secondary literature: to be announced n the first lesson
Interactive lectures will be combined with case studies, as well as group excercises and (group) discussions, and guest lectures. In this way students gain a broad overview of the topic and are at the same time able to deepen their knowledge and reflect on the contents of the course.
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