The Smith Family Business Initiative at Cornell is dedicated to supporting and strengthening the network of owners, leaders, and alumni that work in, with or for a family business.

Founded in 2014 from a generous gift from John and Dyan Smith, the Smith Family Business Initiative provides education, networking and new knowledge for family business owners, successors, and students from across the globe.

Congratulations Class of 2020!

The Smith Family Business Initiative celebrates the accomplishments of the graduating class of 2020.

Next Connected Conversations webinar: Why Family Governance Matters During Times of Crisis

Ann Dugan

On July 15th from 12-1pm EDT, Ann Dugan, Senior Managing Director at Family Office Exchange, will lead a discussion on “Why Family Governance Matters During Times of Crisis.” She will provide insight on ways to achieve long-term sustainability in challenging times.

Recent global events have illustrated the need for critical decision-making skills in both the family and business. All have been tested, and without some level of governance and rational communication in the business, anxiety abounds. Ann Dugan, Cornell Family Business Practitioner Fellow and veteran of her own family’s business, shares examples of sound governance practices, identifies where to start and how to carve a pathway forward to fit your family’s and business needs.

The Smith Family Business Initiative at Cornell BusinessFeed

A large group poses for a photo in a reception space
April 28, 2020

Knowledge into action: Preparing the next generation of family business leaders

The Smith Family Business Initiative (SFBI) understands family business—how it operates, what makes it unique, and the impact it has on the global economy.

Fisk Johnson in a diving suit above water holding plastic waste in the ocean
March 23, 2020

Fisk Johnson, CEO of SC Johnson: A champion in the crusade against plastic ocean waste

SC Johnson CEO Fisk Johnson talks about why ending plastic ocean waste is important to him, his company, and human life on this planet.

Christina Keller portrait
February 25, 2020

Profile in Leadership: Christina Keller, MBA ’07, president and CEO at Cascade Engineering

Christina Keller, CEO and president of Cascade Engineering, upholds and updates a family tradition of do-good capitalism.


Family Business Blog

June 26, 2020


Like all of you I’m shut in, and being shut in I have to look out at my work and my business. What am I going to do? How am I going to emerge? Are my clients, my customers going to be there? What am I going to come out to? What is business going … Continue reading Values

June 15, 2020

Crisis as a Revealer

I’d like to talk about the crisis as a revealer. Indeed, a lot has been said and will be said about the readiness of our governments, of our health systems when the pandemic arrived. And a little bit will be about the fact that our houses were not in order. And so I wanted to … Continue reading Crisis as a Revealer

June 9, 2020


Think about this question: what do Michelin, Walmart, Sicly and Dolce & Gabbana have in common in these times of crisis? Like any other business, they thrive to survive, however, unlike non-family businesses, they have managed to develop resilience over time by dealing with different types of crisis, whether family or business crisis. As such, … Continue reading Resilience