Navigating Your Way Through Family Firm Waters: New Course Brings MBA/EMBA Students Together with Family Firm Members


Leadership of Family Firms: Navigating your way through the unique governance and strategic challenges of your family firm


General information

Teaching language:          English

Offered by:                           Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University

Department:                       Strategic Management & Entrepreneurship

Contact:                               Dr, V, Strike, room T07-15,



RSM’s Leadership of Family Firms is a course open to MBAs, EMBAs and family business members. Bringing these three groups together offers a unique environment to engage in and discuss issues surrounding the unique governance and strategic challenges faced by family firms.

This course will equip you with the fundamental tools needed to prepare your business and your family for the future. It is custom designed to assist you by developing your understanding and ability to navigate through the challenges and critical issues surrounding governance and strategy in your own family business. Together with four of RSM’s top faculty members you will probe the key issues that face family businesses: the role of family values in firm decision making, internal and corporate governance, optimizing family firm financing, strategy and succession. Furthermore, we provide an opportunity to network, share and benchmark with other family firms who share the same concerns and are grappling with similar issues.


Using real-life case studies, active discussions, and networking activities, you will:

  • Develop an understanding of family firms’ unique strategic and governance challenges and how they differ across generations;
  • Become aware of business family dynamics through the three-circle model;
  • Investigate the implications of various succession models;
  • Expand your knowledge and understanding of alternative means of financing
  • Network, apply your learnings and discuss personal challenges with a group of peers from the family business community

Through working with a diverse team of MBAs, EMBAs and family businesses you will also have an opportunity to directly address an issue within a family firm.


For MBA/EMBA Students: At some point in your professional lives you will most likely either work in or consult to family firms as: owners; family members who work or do not work within the business; non-family employees with or without ownership interests; consultants; investment bankers; or in other roles. This course aims to prepare you to work effectively and professionally in, and with, family firms.

For Family Firms: All members of the family and family firm will profit from participation in Leadership of Family Firms, including both family members not actively involved in the firm, spouses, and next generation family members. You will benefit from the programme if you are a:

  • (Future) Family business leader;
  • Family member/shareholder either working or not working in the family firm;
  • Director of a family firm;
  • (Aspiring) non-family manager or employee;
  • Non-executive in the Board of Directors of a family firm.

We encourage participation by multiple members of a single family. Students should be able to read and communicate in English at a reasonable level.


Leadership of Family Firms takes place during two weekends in October and consists of six interactive three-hour sessions. Each session is dedicated to a specific challenge unique to family firms. The program is structured and organised as an Executive MBA elective at RSM, offering you networking possibilities with executives from across the world.

No prior knowledge is required to successfully participate in the programme. However, for the session on family firm finance you need a basic understanding of financial statements, which can be obtained separately in RSM’s two-day Finance for non-Financial Managers programme. For more information, please visit


Cases, posted readings.

Recommended supplementary textbook: Poza, E. (2010). Family Business (III Edition). South-Western, Cengage Learning


Friday 4 October

18:30 - 21:30        Introductory session: The uniqueness and complexities of family firms and the impact
                                of family firm values on decision making

                                Faculty: Dr. Vanessa M. Strike

Saturday 5 October

09:30 - 12:30       Internal governance: Governing the family and the firm

                               Faculty: Dr. Vanessa M. Strike

13:30 - 16:30       Financing the family firm

                               Faculty: Prof. dr. Abe de Jong

 Friday 18 October

18:30 – 21:30      Developing an ownership and governance strategy for the family firm

                               Faculty: Prof. dr. Hans van Oosterhout

Saturday 19 October

09:30 - 12:30       Family firm strategizing

                               Faculty: Prof. dr. Pursey Heugens

13:30 - 16:30      Succession in family firms: Managing a critical process

                               Faculty: Dr. Vanessa M. Strike



DR VANESSA STRIKE is an Assistant Professor in the department of strategic management and entrepreneurship and Scientific Director of Erasmus Center for Family Business at RSM. She received her PhD from the Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario. She has a wide range of research interests surrounding family firms, but particularly focuses on the challenges of governance and decision-making within the family firm. Vanessa has won various awards for her teaching and her research on family firms, and serves on the editorial board of Family Business Review. Her publications have appeared in the Journal of International Business Studies, Family Business Review, and the Academy of Management’s Best Paper Proceedings.

PROFESSOR PURSEY HEUGENS is a Professor of organisation theory, development and change and the Chair of department of strategic management and entrepreneurship at RSM. He obtained his PhD at RSM in 2001. His research interests include comparative corporate governance, family business strategy, and institutional and demographic theories of organisation. Pursey has won numerous awards for his research and teaching performance, and serves on the editorial board of the Academy of Management Journal. He has published over 50 research articles in journals such as the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Organization Science, Organization Studies, Journal of International Business Studies, and Journal of Management Studies.

PROFESSOR HANS VAN OOSTERHOUT is a Professor of corporate governance and responsibility at RSM. He obtained an MA cum laude in political science from Leiden University and a PhD in management from RSM. His current research focuses on how jurisdiction level institutions shape the respective roles of owners and executives in publicly listed firms, and on the corporate governance challenges and practices of professional partnerships, family firms, and philanthropic organisations. Hans’ scholarly work has been published in journals such as the Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science and Organization Studies.

PROFESSOR ABE DE JONG is a Professor in corporate finance and corporate governance at RSM. He obtained a PhD in finance at Tilburg University in 1999. His research and teaching interests cover empirical corporate finance, including capital structure choice, dividend policy, risk management, corporate investment and divestment policies, and corporate governance. Abe has special interest in the history of governance and finance of family firms. He has published over 85 articles in journals such as Journal of Financial Economics, Journal of Banking and Finance, Financial Management and Review of Finance.