Family enterprises are well-known for their longterm planning horizon as well as for “thinking in generations”. The question arises here as to how entrepreneurial orientation can be passed down through the generations and kept alive. The STEP Project spells out this question in its very name: “Successful Transgenerational Entrepreneurship Practices”.
In 2005, leading european institutes in the field of family enterprise research got together under the leadership of the renowned Babson College (boston, massachusetts) to undertake a unique project. In addition to the WIFU, the founding partners include the Center for Family business at the university of St . Gallen (Switzerland), ESADE business School (Spain), the HEC in paris (France), Bocconi universita in milan (Italy) and Jönköping International business School (Sweden). Since then the project has grown significantly, both in Europe and in the pacific region as well as in South and Central America, now involving 33 partner universities with over 125 academics and over 75 family enterprises.
Each partner university enters into a research partnership with selected entrepreneur families. Detailed case studies are produced which not only go into the project database but can also be fed back to the companies themselves based on the logic of action research. This means that the companies involved can make use of the results for their own discussion of family strategy and development.
The families and researchers involved get together at regular intervals in europe and in the other regions for a “STEP summit”. Here companies and academics have the opportunity to share ideas, discuss research results and learn from each other within an atmosphere of trust.
This promotes international networking as well as allowing participants to combine personal expe- rience with theoretical reflection. In Europe, three such summits have already been held in Paris, Barcelona and Milan. The Ceo of one group of companies with a workforce of over 2,000 summarises the benefits of this kind of summit as follows: “The Summit was a wonderful occasion for us to come together with other families and benefit from their experiences. When you are a fast-growing business like ours, you hardly find the time to stop and think about your family history and where you want to go, so this Summit was very helpful in terms of thinking about how to shape our business in the future.” The first worldwide summit was held in Boston/USA in 2010, also attended by the WIFU.