We are consistently successful in our research because we always pursue mutual exchange between theory and practice. That is why we actively integrate members of family businesses and business families into our research, training and event formats. As a research institution, WIFU takes unconventional approaches, which give it access to areas that do not belong to mainstream interest. The Institute acts as a special initiator and incorporates practical problems into the formation of its theories.

WIFU offers a platform for family businesses and business families to talk on equal terms about experiences, successes and challenges. Our large, diverse network enables us to incorporate a wide range of perspectives that can give you a new outlook on your own situation.


WIFU creates protected spaces and supporting events in which family entrepreneurs can meet and talk in an open and confidential atmosphere. We understand family entrepreneurs and business families and we are always available to provide sound knowledge and expertise in moderation and method. Proactive, courageous actions are designed to stimulate the motivation needed in families to succeed in their particular challenges.

This can help family businesses and business families, especially in corporate and family disputes.



  • Consistent transfer between theory and practice
  • Courageous research activities
  • Diverse themes
  • Exchange between like-minded people
  • Expertise on family businesses
  • Moderation expertise
  • Professional presentations
  • Lots of event formats
  • Practical publications
  • Highly qualified points of contact
  • Oriented to the challenges of every generation
  • Worldwide network
  • Decades of collective experience
  • Expertise on family businesses and business families



Those who carry responsibility for the family business do so from a range of positions and perspectives. They actively shape the family-owned business, and as decision-makers they set the course for the next successful generation of family entrepreneurs and a well-educated group of shareholders inside the business family.

WIFU aims to assist this group as a moderator, critical friend and coach, offer them a protected platform for exchange between like-minded people, and convey/deepen foundations and theoretical models for long-lasting, successful family businesses.


Often still heads of businesses and families, members of this group are busy regulating succession and withdrawing from responsibility stage by stage, or taking on new roles.

This transformation process, which is one of the biggest challenges in family businesses and business families, is something we like to support with our knowledge. Our theoretical concepts and models, and reports on successful succession processes, help the experienced generation to reflect on their own situations and to complete their change of role from decision-maker to advisor.


They are the family entrepreneurs and managers of the future.

We want to network successors with other, offer them a platform for exchange between like-minded people, and demonstrate foundations and theoretical models for long-lasting, successful family businesses. We aim to transmit enthusiasm and responsibility for entrepreneurship.

More about our special orientation around the challenges of forthcoming generations in family businesses:


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An institution for family businesses, backed by family businesses, that not only welcomes an intimate exchange between academics and family businesses, but encourages, guides and supplies it with constant new inspiration.

Dr David Klett, managing director of Klett Lernen und Informationen GmbH

What I always love is that it’s full of true believers. You’re in an atmosphere with people really passionate about what they do. All of them like to come to WIFU because you can talk about anything at WIFU and its events, and you go home richer.

Gabriela Grillo, managing director of Wilhelm Grillo Handelsgesellschaft mbH and member of the WIFU Foundation Board of Trustees

At WIFU I notice that things are developed collectively. That means the solutions you get are very, very individual. They’re not mainstream, they’re tailored to each individual case, each particular family.

Wilfried Neuhaus-Galladé, chairman of J.D. Neuhaus GmbH & Co. KG and member of the WIFU Foundation Board of Trustees

Family businesses are a species unto themselves. With its own rhythms, peculiarities, ideas, concerns, family feuds and friends, the business can hardly be separated from the family. This close bond is what makes it so important to deal clearly with the trusteeship of family businesses. This is why WIFU researches the history and findings of generations.

Florian Karle, managing director of Südvers Holding GmbH und Co. KG



Within the professionally designed structure of the ‘Family Business Forum’, delegates from family businesses and business families have an opportunity to meet and talk with each other and discover theoretical concepts that are useful in practice. This gives them insights into problems and solution strategies that other family businesses and business families have adopted, and from academic research as well. The breadth of topics is as diverse as business families themselves.

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As well as many of its own formats, WIFU offers collaborative events with various partners from academia and business. These events are supported by WIFU professors and staff with lectures on content and by providing speakers. These formats include the Digitalisation Symposium, the Witten Family Business Congress and the Symposium for Company History.

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We work on the basic principle of integrative research. When WIFU was founded, it was interdisciplinary from the outset, laying the foundation for transdisciplinary expansion. The team examines the key features and challenges of family businesses and business families in all their complexity. This means that linking disciplines and joining theory and practice constitute a methodical approach in our research. Representatives from business are regularly and systematically integrated into our research projects. Whether as participating observers or participants on learning journeys, the involvement of business representatives in our theoretical work is a key part of our research approach.

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Our research also benefits students at the Witten/Herdecke University. It is fed directly into teaching events on our Bachelor’s and Master’s courses in economics, so that students are introduced early to the particularities of family businesses and business families and learn to deal professionally with them in a management context. Representatives of family businesses and business families are regularly and systematically included in teaching events. Using the special Witten approach to processing real case studies as part of teaching events, students gain an insight into the way family entrepreneurship actually happens, as well as gaining knowledge.

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