Book Review: Entrepreneurs in Every Generation

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Entrepreneurs in Every Generation: How Successful Family Businesses Develop Their Next Leaders. Allan R. Cohen and Pramodita Sharma. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 2016.

One of the central issues regarding family enterprise sustainability resides in the challenge of cultivating multigenerational entrepreneurship (and innovation) within the family and the firm. Professors Allan R. Cohen and Pramodita Sharma, in their new book, Entrepreneurs in Every Generation: How Successful Family Businesses Develop Their Next Leaders, ably chart a course which enables both family members and their advisors to navigate the journey of continuity and sustainability. Both the challenge which the book addresses and an indication of the approach that the authors take may be usefully gleaned from the introductory chapter. As the authors assert:

One barrier to long-term survival is the failure of the current leadership to develop, instill, and select entrepreneurial leadership in the next (and succeeding) generations involved with the business. [p. xxiv]

And crucially, moreover:

Whether members of the next generation take managerial or non-managerial ownership roles or not, if they don’t have the urge and capacity to innovate as needed when the business and social environment changes, their firms will not thrive. [ibid.]

The book is both an accessible conspectus on the growing field of family enterprise research and a practical tool and guide for members of family businesses, informed by both Cohen and Sharma’s depth of experience and expertise as researchers, consultants and members of business families. The inclusion of numerous worksheets and assessment tools (the APGAR scale of family functioning, for example) throughout the book adds to its practical applicability. And the judicious selection of several case studies adds immeasurably to the insights conveyed. Indeed, as a Caribbean researcher/practitioner, I was particularly pleased to see that there was reference to two Caribbean business families included among the case studies presented, and especially so, as there are so few such references to Caribbean family business available in the literature.

Entrepreneurs in Every Generation is an excellent resource for family business advisors and the members of business families alike.

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