Entrepreneurial family firms


Family firms represent the most common form of business organisation across the world; both among established firms and new start-ups. Family-owned firms dominate most industries and they are not only small or medium-sized enterprises. Founders and founding families are also important controlling owners of many large publicly listed companies, such as H&M, Ford, Volkswagen and Samsung. Indeed, many of the world’s most common brands belong to family firms (e.g. Ikea, Heineken, Zara and Wal-Mart). Furthermore, business families are ubiquities for investments in new start-ups and new ventures as well; in fact, much of the capital flowing into new entrepreneurial firms originates from business families. This means that family firms form a crucial force for the economic and social development in most parts of the world. Starting, growing and sustaining successful family firms, however, raises distinct challenges for owners, managers, advisors, and consultants. Decades of research and practice show that family firms are different compared to other type of firms. They have potential strengths that can be used to seize specific value-creating opportunities. But they also face potential challenges that risk destroying value. Interestingly, both the strengths and the challenges are typically related to the overlap between the family and the firm. In order to successfully build an entrepreneurial family firm, regardless of whether it is in the form of a start-up or a growing established family firm, it is therefore important to understand and to be able to leverage the positive uniqueness of family firms, as well as to deal with the challenges arising from the firm’s connection to a family.

Intended learning outcomes

The course is designed for students who are interested in working in family firms (e.g. as entrepreneurs, managers, owners) or with family firms (e.g. as advisors, consultants, board members, bankers) or who come from a family firm background (e.g. next generation family owners). Given that family firms represent the most common type of business organization in most industries and countries, it is very likely students with a business school degree will work in or with family firms at some point in their careers. The overall purpose of this course is thus to help students develop a skill set that allows them to apply, in practice, appropriate models, theories and experiences presented during the course, as well as to critically examine the strengths and weaknesses of these models, theories and experiences.

Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:

  1. Exhibit a deep understanding of central characteristics, opportunities and challenges that different types of family firms face and how they are different compared to non-family firms
  2. Describe and integrate main theories, models and concepts within the field of family firms, and explain how these can be applied to understand different types of entreprenurial family firms
  3. Demonstrate an advanced ability to analyse common themes essential for building and growing entrepreneurial family firms, from both a theoretical and practical perspective.
  4. Demonstrate an advanced ability to integrate and reflect upon common challenges and key decisions facing entrepreneurial family firms (e.g. strategic choices, governance and control arrangements, succession, leadership, financial options and conflicts) and to build appropriate strategies to address these challenges and key decisions in practice.


This course introduces students to the widespread, but complex, phenomenon of entrepreneurial family firms. The course covers many themes relevant for starting a new business and/or for maintaining and growing the entrepreneurial capacity in established family firms. Examples of themes included in the course are: the history and characteristics of entrepreneurial family firms across the globe, strategy, innovation, governance, leadership, succession, sustainability, finance, management control/accounting, transgenerational entrepreneurship, exit, conflicts and relationships and consulting to family firms. The aim of the course is to introduce conceptual tools and theoretical frameworks that can aid students in better understanding entrepreneurial family firms. The course also includes many practical learning situations with real case studies, guest lectures and company visit that cover both new family-based innovative ventures and established, long-lived family firms that have maintained and developed their entrepreneurial spirit for centuries. The course blends examples and experiences from a Swedish setting with a strong international focus and outlook.


The course uses different learning and teaching formats with the purpose to blend theories, concepts and models based on leading research, with practice and experience through examples, cases and real-life challenges.


Assessment for the course will be continuous and is carried throughout the different course activities. Each assessment task is weighted in relation to its importance in the overall assessment of the course. The student’s results from the different assessment tasks are added up to a total course score that will then translate into the final grade for the course. Examination is both individual (60%) and group (40%). The individual examination consists of assignment linked to cases studies/guest lectures/company visit and a final exam. The group examination is in the form of group presentations and a written live project where the student group works with a challenge in a real business setting. Students will have to pass all course assignments in order to receive a passing grade. A student’s grade will depend on performance on both written (individual and group) assignment, oral presentations and level of activity in class sessions.

Attendance in some sessions is mandatory and in some voluntary.


The course language is English.
The course is offered within the framework of the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship. Responsible institution: Stockholm School of Economics (SSE)

Literature and teaching aids
Literature will be announced in connection to the start and communicated to enrolled students.


2023-03-21 - 2023-05-16

Course type



The course runs after 5 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays in 2-3 hour sessions

Course Number

SSE: 8078, SU: FE6618, KTH: ME2836


7.5 ECTS-credits

Swedish Course Name

Entreprenöriella Familjeföretag


This course will only be available for SU, SSE and KTH students during spring 2023.