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First Cohort Graduates From Joint Program for Chinese Family Businesses

The first class has completed Leading and Transforming Family Businesses–China, a five-month program for Chinese family businesses run by three internationally prominent B-schools.

Harvard Business School, Peking University’s Guangua School of Management, and University of Oxford’s Saïd School of Business launched the program last fall. Several years in the making, the course covers a variety of issues relevant to family businesses in China.

The curriculum is split into three modules, one taught at each of the partner schools. The program starts in Beijing, progresses to Oxford, and ends in Boston. The Guanghua module deals with several issues specific to China while the Oxford and Harvard modules cover several topics with a more global focus.

Some of the things covered in the course are specific to family businesses. For example, a key part of family businesses is succession, transferring the business from one generation to the next.

According to Li Jin, Faculty Co-Chair of the program and Associate Dean of Guanghua School of Management, it’s appropriate the course is launching now because many Chinese businesses are being passed on to a new generation for the first time.

“Right now, the Chinese private companies are changing gears and many family businesses are being handed over from their first generation founders to the second generation successors,” explained Li Jin.

“From a geographical point of view, while it is the first time Chinese family businesses have experienced such large scale generational transitions, in Europe and North America many family firms have already gone through multiple generations and accumulated a great deal of valuable experience.”

Students in the inaugural cohort added that a mix of first- and second-generation participants was partly what made the program work well.

“We had first generation founders, second generation successors, as well as family members who have not yet joined the family businesses,” said Stephanie Zhang. “As a result, we heard many different voices, thoughts and perspectives during our group discussion.”

Besides succession, the program discusses a range of other topics relevant to family businesses. These include running a business in China’s current political climate and expanding internationally.

The course engages students in a variety of ways, from lectures to case studies to guest speakers. Participants also break into groups to reflect on problems facing their own businesses and collaborate on developing solutions to these problems.

With the program reaching it’s one-year mark, its inaugural class will return to their businesses with a new perspective, and the program will welcome its next cohort. To learn more about Leading and Transforming Family Businesses–China, see the program’s website.

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