Peer Leadership Forums

Peer Forum Discussion Peer forum discussion Peer forum discussion

For those in family business, peer groups can be a highly effective means of vetting ideas, seeking confidentiality and bench-marking their business against others. A well-formed peer group is assembled with careful detail to ensure that all have something to contribute as well as take away from each meeting. While the advice an owner or business leader receives in a peer group is non-binding, the power of the peer relationship eventually calls for some level of action. Coming to the group month after month with the same persistent issue is rarely tolerated.

The Cornell Peer Leadership Forums combine the expertise of our Cornell Family Business Fellows, access to Cornell faculty, and our extensive Smith Family Business Initiative global network. Forums will be carefully curated and formed. Each forum will be unique to its constituent members, and areas of growth and exploration will be driven by the members.



Peer forums will be based on multiple factors; including size and stage of business, role of individual within business, industry of participating businesses, and most importantly, the overall “fit” of the forum members. They meet an average of 6 times each year for approximately 4-6 hours. Dates, times, and locations are agreed upon by group members. As a rule, family members and competitors are never grouped together. 

What does it mean to participate in a Peer Leadership Forum? 

Once the group membership is set, participants will be asked to make a minimum two-year commitment. This insures consistency of group membership, continuity of dialog, ample time to develop trust and opportunities to fully explore areas of individual development.  

Who is the Forum Facilitator and what is their role? 

The Peer Forum Facilitator is a professionally trained and certified facilitator. Their primary role is to lead forum meetings, monitor discussion topics and hold group members accountable to each other. Facilitators are also responsible for securing outside content experts as needed or requested – often Cornell Family Business Fellows or Mentors, coordinating meeting logistics, and providing leadership and coaching throughout. Lastly, participants meet one-on-one with the facilitator twice a year to discuss their group experience. 

MEET our Facilitators

How is the Smith Family Business Initiative involved? 


  1. matches the Peer Facilitator with the group and oversees the group dynamics over time,
  2. provides resources to forum members such as reading materials, subject matter expert referrals, and best processes,
  3. avails additional university and family business resources and expertise to the group,
  4. offers confidential support and guidance as needed,
  5. administers all forum oversight and membership. 

What types of Peer Leadership Forums will be offered?

  • Sen Gen: Comprised of senior generation leaders in their group. Key topics will include succession, estate, strategy, and leadership.
  • Emerging Leader Forum: For next-generation leaders, young Presidents and CEOs, and those looking to develop their leadership acumen.
  • Female Leadership Forum: A leadership forum reserved for female Presidents, CEO’s and leaders in their family enterprise.
  • Upstate Owners Forum: A specific group for business owners, CEOs, and leaders throughout New York State.
  • Family Office Forum: Family Office Forums are convened to elevate and educate those working within their family offices or foundations in leadership roles, with the goal of connecting professionals as they seek to improve the operation and activities of the family enterprise and associations within the family network.