It’s Not Just Business. It’s Family Business!

By Shigehiro Suzuki

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A wonderful event is going to take place this summer, and it is a story that is truly Thunderbird in spirit! In June this year, two of our alumni – one from Thailand and the other from Taiwan – are going to enter into a collaborative partnership to seek out new opportunities in their tea trading businesses. For many students, this is the stuff they dream of before they arrive here – the home of international business. But what led to this? And why am I writing about this apparently isolated event?

While Thunderbird School of Global Management is home to several clubs, one stands out among all the others. And that is the Thunderbird Family Business Club!

Like the name suggests, the club comprises of students who belong to a family business directly or otherwise. But the club is open to anyone interested in joining it. The primary objective of the club is to provide a closely knit forum for its members to share, discuss and learn from each other, the trials, triumphs and issues that they each face in their respective fields. The club believes that this, in turn, will lead to an environment that is truly collaborative and empathetic to the challenges faced by family owned firms – and some of these are truly unique!

The primary benefit that would result from this platform is an international network that is diverse, both geographically and culturally. This provides a tremendous opportunity for members to leverage each others’ knowledge and experience in their respective industries and form a global network that would last a lifetime! The power of this network would be given an added boost from the networks that each of the businesses have in their respective countries and industries! The Family Business Club aims to achieve a membership of 100 family-businesses in 10 years! The club already has a membership of 40+ family owned companies.

Since its inception in the Fall of 2011, the club has been active in engaging its members through case study sessions, relationship-building dinners, and simulation games. But it is important to mention that all this has been possible only due to the active support and guidance of Thunderbird’s very own Professor Ernesto Poza who has been kind enough to share with members, his expertise in family businesses worldwide. An example of this was the “live family business consulting session” that he held for the benefit of the club, in Fall 2012. This session dealt with the real-life scenario that one of the students in the club faced, with regard to his position in his family business. The theme of the consultation was that of succession.

To sum it up, the Thunderbird Family Business Club is a one-of–a-kind melting pot of family-owned firms that expands across the globe, cutting through cultures, geographies and industries. Within it lies the potential to unite T-birds, present and future-alumni, in a network of immense possibilities. To belong to this club means being part of a tightly-knit group of peers and friends that understand, support and ultimately help each other grow.

Indeed, it is time that the Thunderbird community realizes that this unique school is home to a truly unique club – The Thunderbird Family Business Club.

[For more details about the club, please contact Shigehiro Suzuki, at shigehiro.suzuki@global.t-bird.edu]

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