Although you may have the desire—and even the funds—to go to business school, you may be lacking one important thing: the time. The idea of taking a couple of years off to learn business in a different way may be especially appealing, but your commitment to your family enterprise simply may not allow for it.
If this is your situation, here are a few MBA programs to consider as you look to develop the skills, knowledge, and relationships to take your business to the next level:
1. One-Year Programs
In Part 1 of this blog post, we discussed some of the top two-year programs for students focused on family businesses. If two years is too long of a commitment for you, a one-year program might be more appealing. Some of the top business schools offer an accelerated curriculum that will still allow you to focus on family enterprises. For example, Kellogg and Cornell have one-year MBAs, while Columbia’s J-term program lasts just 16 months.
2. International Programs
Compared to the United States, Europe and Asia have an even higher concentration of family businesses. For this reason, many international programs have a specific focus on running a family enterprise. IE, INSEAD, London Business School, and universities from Singapore to Germany all are known for their outstanding curricula in family business operation. And most are one-year programs, giving you an opportunity for a real adventure that takes you away from your business for half the time.
3. Executive MBA Programs
Like one-year programs, many of the top two-year MBA programs also have executive MBA degrees that let you study family businesses in a more flexible way. Another alternative might be programs like Duke’s Global Executive MBA (GEMBA), which encompasses six residencies around the world with work in between, or the IE Brown Executive MBA, a joint degree between IE and Brown University that follows a similar format. Family business folks are uniquely suited for these programs because they likely have the flexibility to take time away without having to give up vacation or family commitments.
4. Certificate Programs
If even an executive MBA program is too much of a commitment, then check out a certificate program. These programs may only have a few sessions but are highly focused on the issues facing family enterprises. Harvard Business School, for example, has two programs of differing lengths that tackle these issues: the Owner/President Management Program and the shorter Families in Business program.
5. Regional Programs
Some of the strongest programs with a focus on family business are small local programs that were created specifically to cater to the needs of area businesspeople. Although these programs have all sorts of courses focused on family business, they are also looking to build a community of local businesspeople who face the same unique difficulties in running their own enterprises. In fact, these very people frequently become your future clients, customers, suppliers, and business partners. These programs are generally part time, though some may have a full-time option. Your own city most likely has such programs, but here are a few of the more interesting examples of programs you may find nearby:
- Meredith College: Although it’s known for being a fine women’s college in Raleigh, North Carolina, Meredith’s co-educational business school has begun to focus on the intersection between entrepreneurship and family-run enterprises. To this end, Meredith recently started offering a concentration in Entrepreneurship and Family Business.
- Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University: Atlanta-based Kennesaw is well known in family business studies and research largely due to its Cox Family Enterprise Center, which is one of America’s oldest family business centers.
- D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University: Northeastern’s Center for Family Business is geared toward both business undergraduates and MBA students, and it supports courses, community building, and research focused on family businesses. The center is also responsible for FAMBIZ, a website that compiles a wide range of resources for those running their own family enterprises.
- Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at California State University, Fullerton: Mihaylo has its own Center for Family Business, and the group’s mission could not be more explicit: “to use education to help family businesses in our region grow and prosper and to keep harmony in the family.” I love the “keep harmony in the family” part, because this may be the most difficult part of running a family business and making it successful.
Given the unique challenges of running a business that has closely tied stakeholders—who may have a financial connection as well as an emotional commitment to the business—running a family enterprise is hard. The fact that such businesses frequently face slow growth and have a bias against entrepreneurship just adds another obstacle to be overcome.
There is an old adage about family businesses: members of the founding generation are the risk takers; those in the second generation are the caretakers; and the final generation becomes the undertakers. In the past, working for a family business and getting your MBA seemed to be incompatible goals. However, it’s now becoming clear that pursuing a top-notch business education is one way to avoid being part of the “undertaker” generation. That education can come in many shapes and sizes, with one that might be a perfect fit for you!