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STEP Project members and enterprising families attend 2017 Global Summit hosted by Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) in Lugano, Switzerland

On November 9-11, 2017, STEP affiliate Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) hosted the Third Global STEP Summit in Lugano, Switzerland.  This year’s theme was entitled:  THRIVING ON CHAOS: How Family Firms and Entrepreneurial Families Can Flourish in the New Global Disorder and Impact on the Global Economy. One hundred and fifteen (115) academics and family business owners from 26 countries (Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, UAE, UK, USA, and Venezuela) participated in this unique and collaborative learning event for the Successful Transgenerational Entrepreneurship Practices (STEP) Project for Family Enterprising.

The Global STEP Project is an applied research initiative that explores the entrepreneurial process within business families and generates solutions that have immediate application for family leaders. Babson College is the convener of the Project.  More information on the STEP Project can be found at

During the Summit, families interacted with other business families and a pool of expert academics. Families listened to research findings, benchmarked themselves against other families and applied new thinking to their particular situations.  The unique setting allowed families to discuss their own key issues for future research and develop innovative tools, methods and forms for managing their complex families and businesses.  Families departed with valuable knowledge and strategies to help them to develop further and achieve transgenerational entrepreneurship potential.

This year’s Summit activities began on Thursday, November 9th with Prof. Gianluca Colombo and Dr. Ivona Ljumic, USI, hosts of the event; STEP Board Chair Prof. Carole Howorth, Univ. of York; and Prof. Matt Allen and Val Duffy of Babson College providing a warm welcome to the STEP academics and families at the Lugano campus.  Academics were invited to attend one of two workshops intended for professional development: 1) Carole Howorth (Univ. of York) led an engaging paper development workshop and 2) Isabel Botero, Stetson Univ. ran a hands on session called The Importance of Developing Family Business Teaching Cases.

In the afternoon, STEP academics held their own regional meetings for their respective regions in Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America with a cross fertilization assembly to summarize overall activities and achievements of the regions.  During this assembly, the EU region announced their first report based on STEP quantitative data: Understanding Transgenerational Practices in European Family Businesses.  The report presents intriguing insights from a European perspective, particularly focusing on key drivers of long-term success.

While academics participated in development sessions, family business attendees enjoyed corporate visits to three local Ticino region family businesses: Tamborini Vini (winemaker in Ticino region); Planhotel – the View Lugano and Fondazione Gabriele e Anna Braglia (private art collection of the Braglia family of Helsinn Co.).  These three family businesses are all members of the Ticino Families Association (AIF) in Lugano, sponsors of the Summit.

The evening was topped off by a fabulous dinner at Metamorphosis restaurant with wines offered by Valsangiacomo family, a 6th generation family business and members of AIF Ticino.  Families and academics that traveled from all corners of the world to learn from one another were provided a warm welcome and energetic atmosphere, sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The following day, distinguished keynote speaker Dr. Riccardo Braglia, CEO of Helsinn Healthcare SA, provided reflections of experiences with his family business and how they continue to thrive in a chaotic world.  Riccardo is the 3rd generation of the flourishing family enterprise.

The interactive sessions for academics and families on Friday and Saturday evolved around inspiring themes related to THRIVING ON CHAOS: How Family Firms and Entrepreneurial Families Can Flourish in the New Global Disorder and Impact on the Global Economy.   Thought provoking parallel sessions included family businesses discussing their own experiences alongside researchers sharing their insights with topics such as:

  • Coping with innovation and tradition
  • Coping with economic trends and internationalization
  • Managing the family system and succession process
  • Preserving family business legacy in a hostile environment
  • From family business to enterprising family
  • Family impact on society (CSR and B-Corp)

The event organizers provided one afternoon of panel sessions that were open to the public which allowed integration of the STEP community and the Ticino regional community and business families.  Distinguished panelists included Prof. Boas Erez, Rector of USI; Marco Borradori, Mayor of Lugano; Dr. Flavio Audemars, President of AIF-Ticino; and Prof. Daniela Montemerlo, Univ. of Insubria and Bocconi.  The session also provided an international perspective of business families from Brazil, Asia, and Switzerland and how they continue to prosper with succession and innovation in a global era of chaos.  Networking opportunities were abundant throughout the entire Summit providing collaboration and engagement opportunities for business families and STEP researchers.

On Friday evening, The USI Lugano team hosted an elegant Gala Dinner at LAC, (by Gabbani SA) for all of the families and STEP members to celebrate the 3rd Global Summit and show gratitude for the many families and researchers that travelled from all over the world to attend the Summit.  Dinner attendees enjoyed a magnificent five course meal accompanied by a pairing of delightful wine for each course, provided by the Tamborini family, a family business now in their 3rd generation and members of AIF Ticino.

Prof. James Davis, Buelher Endowed Prof. of Management; Chair of Management Dept.; and Director of Executive Education at Utah State University, led a stimulating keynote on Saturday on the topic of “Pivoting” within family business and how business families transform in response to global disorder.

A special recognition goes to the 60+ family members that traveled near and far to participate in the Global Summit.  These enterprising firms from different industrial sectors all share the passion for quality, family values and long term orientation within their family firms.

Lastly, we are grateful to the organizers of this spectacular event, the STEP team at USI, Lugano, Switzerland.  Thank you to Prof. Gianluca Colombo (pictured right), Dr. Ivona Ljumic, Cristina Bonic, and Prof. Carmine Garzia for their warm hospitality, providing a family like atmosphere, and for their dedication to the STEP families and scholars.  This diligent team succeeded in organizing a world class event for all members and families of the STEP community at the Third Global STEP Summit!

See more highlights here >>