Juan Corona is academic director of the IEF.
Spain's IEF has been at the forefront of various initiatives to increase awareness between family businesses and the public
The Instituto de la empresa familiar (IEF) has been involved in several initiatives to increase the family business "learning curve" among both its members and the public. Two key initiatives concern educational programmes in universities and next generation member activities, and both look to be successes in Spain.
Since its foundation 10 years ago, the IEF has been has been trying to establish professorships specialising in family business, particularly at public universities. The task taken on by the IEF is to sensitise the academic world to the importance of including in academic programmes a subject that affects more than 95% of Spanish companies.
Their survival depends in part on the efforts made by the education system in training entrepreneurs and executives; indeed, all people and institutions involved in family business. At the same time, the IEF aims to increase the degree of participation and co-operation between universities and the business world.
The Chair of Family Business
The fundamental element of the model prepared by the IEF consists of the creation of Professorships by way of a co-operation agreement between the IEF, the university at which the Chair is based, the Association in whose geographical area the university is based, and the companies and/or institutions that guarantee its financing.
This arrangement is aimed at ensuring work of mutual interest in:
- Exchanging information and knowledge within the sphere of the family company;
- The joint development of activities of study and research by way of special projects;
- The development of training programmes based on joint activities;
- The organisation of gatherings between academics, entrepreneurs and students, which will allow for the exchange of knowledge and experiences, and discussion of matters of concern.
The Chair will aim to analyse, research and teach about the real circumstances, problems, and perspectives of these companies, from all points of view. The Chair will also develop the training programme for students in this field. Given the multi-disciplinary character of the area, it will be possible to provide teaching in co-operation with the study of business management, law, economics and psychology.
The IEF acts as a co-ordinating body for the activities carried out by the different Chairs, and ensures the homogeneity and quality of the contents of the programmes, as well as the professionalism of the entrepreneurs and academics who participate in them.
Education: an insider's view
Of all the various tasks for which I am responsible, looking after the network of Chairs is undoubtedly closest to my heart, due partly to my university background, and partly to the personal enrichment that results from being able to make a contribution to the growth of a network of academics dedicated to research and teaching relating to the family company.
The holders of the Chairs come from different backgrounds, and are usually university professors in areas such as corporate economics, applied economics, commercial law, tax law and so on. In most cases, they are young professionals, somewhat frustrated with academic life and very enthusiastic about the chance to develop an essentially modern subject in an academic environment.
A teaching programme has been developed and research activity is expressed in the form of a series of research projects inspired by the Institution, and assigned to different Chairs on the basis of the specialisations of the teams.
One of the most important tasks of the network is the provision of a monograph course held annually at some of the most prestigious summer schools mounted at our national universities (Menendez Pelayo International University, El Escorial, UPV Summer Courses, etc). At these courses, over a period of a week, the students have the opportunity of familiarising themselves with latest developments and the academics have the chance to find out about each others' most recent work and plan future projects together.
The Chairs are encouraged to partake in extra-curricular events, such as conferences run by distinguished entrepreneurs, academics, consultants, politicians, and other significant figures, as well as organising courses and seminars.
One of the key objectives of the network is to establish an interactive methodology for teaching, based on a combination of the home method and master classes, at which the students are encouraged to play an active part. To this end, it is usual, in parallel with the classes held personally by the holder of the Chair, for the students to take advantage of practical sessions overseen by lawyers and consultants of repute, as well as discussions at which family entrepreneurs of different generations explain and debate in public about their business experiences.
This is an enormously enriching experience, and one that is becoming increasingly popular in the Spanish academic world, with a large number of universities expressing interest in establishing Chairs of family business to join the 13 already in full operation.
Next generation initiative
The IEF has also created an initiative for the next generation of family business members: the Family Forum. The Forum's aim is to promote the participation of these young people in the actions of the IEF, and to organise training activities and specific opportunities to exchange knowledge and experiences. This will help them to understand the problems of family companies with a view to preparing them to join their family company, as managers or as owners, and undoubtedly also as the future nucleus of the IEF.
The training activities are combined with meetings with people from the commercial and institutional world, who tell about their own practical experiences, while at the same time fostering the development of the members and the relationships between them. The Executive Committee of the Forum is made up of nine young people, aged between 25 and 35, all of them university graduates, and all of them working or attending postgraduate courses.
The activities of the Forum are varied and are defined at meetings of the Board held on a twice-monthly basis. There are seminars and one-day training events held on a wide variety of topics, provided by top-flight professionals, luncheons and dinners with entrepreneurs or politicians of relevance (most of a similar age to the members of the Forum), and it is planned that in future there will be an annual Congress aimed at bringing together the greatest possible number of members.
This group will be entrusted with managing the fabric of their family company in the near future. The onus will be on them to strengthen Spain's family companies and bring them to an international level in an economic environment that is steadily becoming more global and competitive. The Forum seeks to contribute to teaching and information, and to heighten the awareness among its members of the goal that unites them: To secure the continuity of generations within the family business.