Learning from Others from Around the World

Some people are lifelong learners and never stop searching for ways to improve what they do, and I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be one of these people.

I certainly consider myself to be among them.

I’ve just returned from one of the events I love to be a part of whenever possible, mostly because it’s a gathering of like-minded people who live and work in the family enterprise space as I do.

I’m talking about the Tenth Annual Schlesinger Global Family Enterprise Case Competition (SG-FECC) at the University of Vermont.


I’ll Be the Judge of That

I can’t believe that I first participated as a judge way back in 2014, but I wrote a blog about it, so I’ve got proof! See The World’s Only Family Business Case Competition

It’s an honour and a privilege to be invited back again and again, and the bonus for me is that it’s only an hour and a half away by car.

Contrast that with some of the other judges I spent time with over the past few days, who flew in from France, Gautemala, Arizona and Louisiana.

The 19 teams competing this year represented 12 different countries on 4 continents, which always impresses me. 

Recall that this takes place in January, in Burlington Vermont.

Academics, Professionals, & FamBiz People

One of the coolest aspects of the event is that the judging panels are always composed of a mix of academics, practitioners like me, and real life people who are part of family businesses.

I love spending time with people who are part of this world but who play very different roles than I do, and that’s what makes this event so enriching for me.

After each team presents their recommendations based on the case facts, a Q & A period follows, which can often become a “make or break” moment for the team of students.

Thanks to the varied composition of the judging panels, the types of questions we fired at the teams were always focused on different aspects of each presentation.

 

Pent-Up Demand for Being Together in Person Again

As I noted in From Multi-Disciplinary Field to Interdisciplinary Ecosystem, there was also a warm buzz at the event thanks to the fact that we were all together once again.

This event, like many others, continued on despite Covid and the restrictions from being together over the past few years.

While everyone did their best to make those events as good as they could be while being done remotely, there really is no substitute for occupying the same room together.

At the same time, though, the past few years have shown us all just how much can still be accomplished via virtual get-togethers.

 

Family Businesses Are Common Around the World

With students, coaches and judges from around the world, we were reminded just how prevalent family businesses are, all around the world.

In fact, in some countries that we might label as emerging markets, they’re even more common than in North America.

Different countries means the cultures for FamBiz might have a different feel and flavour, but I love the fact that we can always learn from someone else’s situation.

A Worldwide Family Enterprise Community

The cases used on the days I judged featured family businesses that had already transitioned a couple of generations, and such examples can usually be used as a model for us to learn from.

The family business community continues to grow and solidify, with events like this and organizations like the Family Firm Institute creating opportunities for us all to come together and share what actually works for families.

Typically, small firms learn from larger ones, and new ones learn from older ones, but very much like mentoring it can also work the other way around.

The key is an open-minded attitude and a willingness to learn.

I appreciate all of this and my place in this great community, and every year when I leave this event I have great hope for the future.

The young people who compete at GS-FECC each year always impress me. I’m usually a bit jealous that all of this did not yet exist when I was in university. 

Kudos to the whole UVM team!


And the Winners Are….

The team from Wilfrid-Laurier University took home the Undergraduate Division, while the University of Manitoba won the prize for the Graduate Division.

I hope to return for the 2024 edition, to see what else I can learn.