The Risks and Rewards of Non-Family CEOs

The Risks and Rewards of Non-Family CEOsNortheastern University

Family Business Quarterly

The person at the top of the organization chart at many family businesses these days may not have the same last name as the business, as more and more companies are turning to non-family CEOs.

Dr. Bonnie Brown, the president of Dallas-based Transition Dynamics, addressed the good, bad, and–yes, sometimes–the ugly of going outside the family for top managers during a recent Half-Day forum on “The Non-Family CEO: Rewards and Risks of Non-Family Key Managers.”

“I think we’re going to see non-family CEOs used more and more over time,” said Brown, who regularly consults to family businesses.”There are a lot of good reasons to do so, such as a gap in the leadership skills between generations.”

Brown provided the scenario of a company whose CEO is ready to retire, but the family member who is the chosen successor is simply not ready to take over.Rather than rush the successor or have the CEO hang on longer than desired,

A Life Course Approach to the Entrepreneurial Family (Part I)

A Life Course Approach Cornell University
to the Entrepreneurial Family (Part I)

by Phyllis Moen
Cornell University


This paper describes the utility of applying a life course approach to analysis of theentrepreneurial family. A life course viewhighlights the dynamic processes of development and change over the life span,as well as the importance ofthe social contexts of families, businesses, and lives. Both the life course (Elder, 1992, 1995) and ecology of human development (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Moen et al., 1995) paradigms underscore the social forces that shape employment–such as starting, stopping, or expanding a business–and their economic, social, and psychological consequences.

A life course perspective challenges traditional ways of investigating the interplay between work and family.For example, instead of considering snap-shots of family businesses at any one point in time, a life course approach focuses on pathways, considering roletransitions, trajectories, and turning points in lives–and family businesses–over time. The life course reflects the interweave ofwork, family, and community roletrajectories that change in conjunction with age,as well as with changing circumstances and options. Thus, an individual life can be characterized as a series of interrelated trajectories through both occupational and family “careers.”In fact, one useful way of depicting the life course is as a series of movements in and out of various roles (Elder, 1992, 1995). More…