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Successful Transgenerational Entrepreneurship Practices

Successful Transgenerational Entrepreneurship Practices (STEP)

Rob Nason and Pramodita Sharma

The STEP project is a global applied research initiative focused on transgenerational entrepreneurship – that is, processes through which a family uses and develops entrepreneurial mindsets and capabilities to create new value across generations. Family business scholars have devoted considerable efforts to understand the factors that help preserve wealth and survive from one generation to the next. Through the STEP Project, founded by Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, families and scholars begin
to understand the requirements for long-run growth and productivity that can generate prosperity for many generations to come. As our founder Tim Habbershon describes it, we want to focus on not just how families pass on their business entities from one generation to the next, but the entrepreneurial mindset and capabilities to the next generation to create new streams of social and economic value over
time. As a first of its kind initiative, the STEP Project hopes to change the way that we view business
families and think of global prosperity.

Since its inception in 2005, the STEP community of scholars has expanded to over 125 scholars in 33 countries around the world. Collectively, they have developed over 75 in depth case studies of entrepreneurial family firms. Families and scholars have come together in 8 regional summits to exchange ideas and learn from each other.

STEP is exploring transgenerational entrepreneurship by implementing a research strategy with following distinctive features:

  • Standard model and data collection protocols: Based on established theoretical frameworks, the core research model guiding the STEP project enables a shared scope of the study, while allowing new knowledge to emerge rapidly. As the core model and data collection protocols are shared
    across all research efforts, the strength of collective knowledge is powerful.
  • Multi-level analysis: Rather than focusing on just the family, the firm(s), or the entrepreneur(s),
    the STEP model looks at all three levels of analysis and the interacting influences within them.
  • Qualitative and Quantitative Data: STEP is committed to collecting rich data, not easy data. The synergies between the in-depth multi-respondent qualitative cases and the multi-rater stakeholder survey (to be launched shortly) are likely to provide unique and powerful data to understand the antecedents and consequences of transgenerational entrepreneurship in different parts of the world.
  • Relationships: The STEP Project realizes that collecting in depth data from family businesses is done primarily through personal relationships. Rather than attempt to build our own network of families through Babson, a single institution, we have created a broad network of partners to leverage their social capital for a common goal. Thus, we create a data pool bigger than any single institution could create on its own. In this community we deepen the network to cultivate shared learning relationships between academic institutions, scholars, practitioners and business families worldwide.

Applied Nature:

The STEP Summit is a distinctive part of the STEP Project applied research design. Through the Summits, the STEP Project delivers immediate value back to the families participating in the research and allows researchers to tests the real time relevance of their findings.

Summits are held each year at the end of the research cycle in each region of the world. Academic partners invite the families that have participated in their research to join them in a summit environment. The summit is not a seminar for the families. It is an applied research dialogue between academics and family members that blends research discussions about the findings with application, impact analysis and benchmarking for the families. The Summits are the perfect embodiment of the “pracademic” commitments of Babson and the STEP Project.

Our first Global Summit is planned for November 4-7, 2010 at Babson College.

For more information on the STEP Project please visit

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