All in the Family

An EMBA for family businesses that sends students to visit their classmates’ own family-run firms.
All in the Family

THE IDEA

An EMBA for family businesses that sends students to visit their classmates’ own family-run firms.

LOCATION

A DIFFERENT DYNAMIC

In 2009, Coles College launched its 18-month, five-semester Executive MBA for Families in Business for managers of family-owned operations. The program integrates topics such as family dynamics, conflict resolution, and succession plans. These issues are so unique to these businesses that some students already have general MBA degrees.

“Public companies think in terms of quarterly results,” says Joe Astrachan, executive director of the school’s Cox Family Enterprise Center. “Most family companies think long term. Survival tends to be the ultimate goal, not quarterly profits. These executives need a curriculum that reflects their realities.”

PROGRAM STRUCTURE

The program begins with nine days on campus, during which students complete a simulation that covers basics in accounting, finance, and strategy. Courses are delivered during the international residencies. In between residencies, students interact online as they complete projects related to their own companies, including analyses from enterprise, unit, and product and service levels; personal, business, and governance development plans; a statistics assignment; a capital justification assignment; and an advanced financial model.

INTERNATIONAL SITE VISITS

The program’s signature feature is its series of eight six-day international residencies in which students travel to visit their classmates’ businesses. Just one cohort visited an auto dealership in North Carolina; a brick manufacturer in Ohio; a flower farm and cooking oil refinery in Colombia; a flooring manufacturer in South Africa; a chemical manufacturer in Thailand; a baby product company in the Ukraine; and a power plant construction firm in India. To ensure diversity, the program enrolls about 50 percent of the students from the U.S. and 50 percent internationally.

The students in each cohort—which is capped at 15—collectively choose who among them will host residencies. If two students are from the same region, they might co-host a residency. Each host must plan two visits: one to his or her own company and one to another local family business. Hosts also arrange events such as meetings with political figures and social activities. Host students are not compensated—they know when they enroll that they could be asked to take on this responsibility.

The residencies only strengthen as students experience more of them, says Astrachan. “Most roll out the red carpet for the class.”

PROGRAMS STRUCTURE

The program begins with nine days on campus, during which students complete a simulation that covers basics in accounting, finance, and strategy. Courses are delivered during the international residencies. In between residencies, students interact online as they complete projects related to their own companies, including analyses from enterprise, unit, and product and service levels; personal, business, and governance development plans; a statistics assignment; a capital justification assignment; and an advanced financial model.

PEER PRESENCE

The program “gives students real-time insight into what we teach and how those lessons can be applied,” says Astrachan. “They learn how business is conducted in other countries and the effects of local culture.” “Faculty teach you how to preserve the legacy and continuity of your family business. That’s not taught in a regular MBA,” says graduate Michael Cotton. “The family dynamics lectures almost become therapy sessions where you are forced to analyze yourself and realize your own faults and strengths.”



Students in Coles College’s EMBA for Families in Business program visit Organización Corona, a tile manufacturer in Bogotá, Colombia.