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Strong governance: a result of evolutionary and revolutionary processes

Lorna Collins (School of Business and Entrepreneurship, Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, UK)
Ken McCracken (Withers Consultancy Group LLP, London, UK)
Barbara Murray (Consultant, Madrid, Spain)
Martin Stepek (Scottish Family Business Association, Glasgow, UK)

Journal of Family Business Management

ISSN: 2043-6238

Article publication date: 7 October 2014




This paper is the first in a regular series of articles in JFBM that will share “a conversation with” thought leaders who are active in the family business space. The world of family business is, like many other arenas, constantly evolving and as the authors learn more about how and why families “do business” the approaches and tools for working with them also evolve. The purpose of this paper is to stimulate further new research in areas that practically affect family businesses and to “open the door” to practical insights that will excite researchers and provide impetus for new and exciting study. The specific purpose of this paper is to explore “what is strong governance.” There has been much interest in governance lately yet there is a tendency to treat governance in a formulaic way such that, at the moment, the notion that every family business must have a family council or a formal structure in order to be considered “effective” and “successful” predominates. The authors’ panel challenges and discusses this notion drawing on the experience and knowledge as family business advisors, consultants and owners.


The impetus for this particular conversation is a result of a brainstorming conversation that Lorna Collins and Barbara Murray held in February 2014 where they focussed on “how JFBM can encourage and stimulate researchers to engage in aspects of research that makes a difference to the family business in a practical way.” This paper reports a conversation between Barbara Murray (Barbara), Ken McCracken (Ken) and Martin Stepek (Martin), three leading lights in the UK family business advising space, all of whom have been involved in running or advising family businesses for more than three decades, held in August 2015. The conversation was held via telephone and lasted just over 60 minutes. Lorna Collins acted as moderator.


Strong governance is not just about instituting a “family council” or embedding formal governance mechanisms in a family business. Evolutionary adaption by family members usually prevails such that any mechanism is changed and adapted over time to suit and fit the needs of the family business. Many successful family businesses do not have recognized “formal” governance mechanisms but, it is contended, they are still highly successful and effective. Future areas of research in governance are also suggested.


This paper contributes to the family business discourse because the debate it reports challenges the basic assumptions upon which much consulting and advisory practice is conducted. It also challenges the notion of “best practice” and what is “new best practice” and how is it that any “best practice” is determined to be “best.” Furthermore, the panel provides insights in to the “impact of family dynamics on governance” and “the impact of family dynamics on advisors.” The paper content is original in that it provides an authentic and timely narrative between active family business practitioners who are also scholars and owners.



Collins, L., McCracken, K., Murray, B. and Stepek, M. (2014), "Strong governance: a result of evolutionary and revolutionary processes", Journal of Family Business Management, Vol. 4 No. 2, pp. 99-109.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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