Just because entrepreneurs are good at business doesn’t mean they’re necessarily good at family business.
“They may have in-depth knowledge of industries, knowledge of entrepreneurship. They may have connections,” says Lauri Union, the Nulsen Family Executive Director of Babson’s Bertarelli Institute for Family Entrepreneurship. “What tends to get in the way is family relationships and family dynamics.”
How entrepreneurial families function and work together is a focus of the Bertarelli Institute. As it celebrates its fifth anniversary, the institute is looking to expand its reach by creating the Global Family Entrepreneurship Network. The network’s goal is to provide connections, education, and support for its global members, allowing entrepreneurial families to strengthen their critical relationships, as well as their business skills.
“I don’t think any other organization could do this but Babson,” Union says. “We are trying to create a new opportunity.”
The launching of the global network represents something of a shift for the Bertarelli Institute. Since its founding in 2018, it has concentrated on developing programs for Babson students from entrepreneurial families. During that time, it has interacted with some 6,000 people. “We are very happy to have built it to that level,” Union says. “We are making a difference in people’s lives.”
The institute is now looking toward its next five years. While it will continue meeting the needs of students, the institute plans to add lifelong-learning programs specifically targeting entrepreneurial families. “The new network represents the first phase of that,” Union says.
Union says there is a gap in knowledge about family entrepreneurship. Too often, families in business together focus on their ventures, rather than on each other, even though their relationships are typically a key driver of success.
“Relationships are the foundation for building success. Everything else works better when the foundation is strong,” she says. “Processes can’t paper over family dynamic challenges. You can’t paper over the need for better family communication.”
The new network’s founding families, who have provided critical financial support to the Bertarelli Institute, hail from all over the world. They also hail from a wide range of industries—real estate and construction, finance and private equity, energy and technology. “We have these incredible families,” Union says. “These families are leaders in their regions in one or more industries.”
For members of the network, the institute assesses their needs and helps them work on their relationships. Members have access to customized learning plans, which cover topics such as values and entrepreneurial thinking. The institute meets with families regularly, offering classes and workshops. “Behavior change takes time,” Union says, “It is about learning over an extended period.”
“We have these incredible families. These families are leaders in their regions in one or more industries.”
Lauri Union, the Nulsen Family Executive Director of Babson's Bertarelli Institute for Family Entrepreneurship
Families also gain access to a communication platform that allows them to connect with fellow members. “They can learn from each other,” Union says. “We create a lifelong confidential network.”
As the Bertarelli Institute builds the network, it ultimately hopes to help families create economic and societal value in whatever endeavors they are involved with. “If we at Babson can develop new ways for families to learn that is scalable,” Union says, “that would be a massive amount of impact.”