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Family Business Education and Research Group (FBERG)

Established in the Adelaide Business School in 2011 to promote awareness of and excellence in research, education and industry engagement in the field of family-owned enterprises.

This initiative is in response to the growing recognition of the significant contribution that family businesses make to national economies around the world, and the need for research and education that addresses the unique issues faced by such firms.

For example, the European Commission recently issued a policy statement to member nations calling for a greater emphasis on including family business studies in university curricula.

The aim is for the University of Adelaide's Business School to become recognised locally, nationally and internationally as a key contributor to family business research and education. FBERG's objective to further the Business School's links with the wider business community in SA is consistent with the University's imperative to build and enhance links with the business community.

  • Family businesses engaging with FBERGLearn about our research focus areas and supervision expertise

    FBERG engages with the family business sector in the following ways:

    • Conducting research in family business to contribute to expand the knowledge and effectiveness in this area with current project including family business succession in China, and family succession/exit in the Australian Wine industry
    • Promoting Family Business research to prospective higher degree research candidates and encourage research collaboration with academics from all disciplines around the University of Adelaide
    • Offering a Family Business Issues and Perspectives course open to Adelaide MBA students and as stand alone professional development for eligible participants*. Undergraduate Small and Family Business Perspectives electives are also available through the Bachelor of Commerce programs
    • Consulting to Family Businesses on projects by FBERG academics or by experienced Master of Business Administration (MBA) students for their consulting projects
    • Attracting research funding from multiple sources including family businesses, government and University sources
    • Being a local, national and international authority and spokesbody for issues in Family Business including providing comment to a range of media
    • Engaging with family businesses to gain feedback and support for curriculum development and advice and participation in research projects
    • Dedicated academics focusing on the development of FBERG
  • Family Business EducationLearn about our research focus areas and supervision expertise

    FBERG has developed two specialised coursework subjects (outlined below) focusing on family business issues. These courses have been developed with input from business practitioners to meet the requirements of the family business community whilst satisfying the academic rigour required by the University of Adelaide. There is also an Adelaide MBA Business Projects course where students work on a complex consulting issues which can be applied to family businesses.

    Through interactive seminar classes and including presentations by business leaders, this course explores issues critical to family owned and managed businesses, such as governance, succession, family and shareholder relationships, and professionalisation. Learning outcomes include:

    • Developing strategies for managing and harnessing the dynamics between family, shareholders and the business
    • Evaluating governance structures necessary to optimise family firm performance
    • Incorporating the future needs of the family and the business into the planning processes
    • Identifying the issues to be addressed when planning for ownership and management succession
    • Analysing potential stressors in relationships between family and non family members in the business as well as the unique relationships that form when family members work together.

    The course is targeted at current and potential owners and managers of family businesses and those interacting with family businesses as managers, employees, customers, consultants and advisors.

    This course is also offered to appropriately qualified participants as a professional development course for family business sector and advisors and to existing students as a cross-institution enrolment or through the University of Adelaide’s Master of Commerce pathway.

    Participants wishing to enrol in the course outside of the Adelaide MBA (as a standalone course) should contact Sarah May, MBA Program Advisor.

    This course aims to enhance students’ understanding of the characteristics, contributions, and issues surrounding the management and growth of small firms and family businesses. Topics include:

    • Small firm and family business characteristics and significance
    • Commencing and inheriting a business
    • Developing business and marketing plans
    • Choice of organisational structure and implications
    • Financing start-up and growth
    • Principles of sound financial management
    • Managing growth and ownership/management transitions
    • Role of advisors such as accountants
    • Exiting the business through succession to the next generation or through a trade sale

    The course will appeal to those who are interested in starting up their own business, as well as those interacting with small firms and family businesses as advisors, managers and policy-makers.

    Family businesses are encouraged to engage experienced students for MBA business consulting projects where students come in to the family business and work on complex issues or challenge of mutual benefit.

  • ResearchersMeet our academic research leaders

    FBERG draws on staff expertise across schools within the University of Adelaide in its research, education and industry engagement activities:

    Jill Thomas
    Dr Jill Thomas

    (FBERG co-founder) is a Senior Lecturer in the University of Adelaide Business School. Jill is a family business educator (through the University’s MBA course ‘Family Business Issues & Perspectives’ and Family Business Australia’s Leadership Course) and a family business researcher (areas of leadership and governance). Jill is currently on the boards of Family Business Australia and the Family Firm Institute (based in the USA)

    Chris Graves
    Dr Chris Graves

    (FBERG co-founder) is a Senior Lecturer in the University of Adelaide Business School. Chris is a family business educator (through the University’s MBA course ‘Family Business Issues & Perspectives and Commerce degree course’ Small & Family Business Perspectives) and a family business researcher (areas of internationalisation, financial management & performance). Chris is also engaged in advising small and family businesses. He is currently on the board of the International Family Enterprise Research Academy (www.ifera.org) based in Europe.

    Domenic Carbone
    Mr Domenic Carbone

    Prior to joining the university, Domenic was a Tax Manager with one of the large (then "Big 6") accounting firms where he was mainly involved in the tax consulting, tax audit and indirect tax areas. He regularly advises family businesses on issues surrounding tax planning and taxation law.

    Gary Hancock
    Mr Gary Hancock

    Gary is a lecturer and undergraduate program director for the Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation, and Innovation Centre (ECIC) at the University of Adelaide. Gary is an educator in the areas of small business management, new venture creation, business consulting, and entrepreneurship. He is currently undertaking a PhD in the field of early stage business financing. Specifically, he is interested in the phenomenon of how and why people engage in intra-family financing of new ventures.

    Andrew Harrison
    Mr Andrew Harrison

    Andrew is a PhD candidate within the University of Adelaide Business School. Titled ‘Survival of Family Farms: Capital Raising and Credit Access’, Andrew’s research addresses one of the most critical issues for the sustainability of the family farm today - their ability to fund the transfer from one generation to the next. The outcomes of the study are expected to provide advice to farmers on how to manage succession planning, better access capital and increase awareness that will lead to a long-term future for their business.

    Professor Noel Lindsay
    Professor Noel Lindsay

    Noel is currently the Director of the University of Adelaide’s Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation, and Innovation Centre (ECIC). Prior positions held include being Director of Bond University’s Australian Centre for Family Business. He leads the ECIC team in teaching and researching in the areas of entrepreneurship, innovation, technology commercialisation, and project management. With regard to family business, Noel’s research focuses on the role of family equity in business start-ups as well as understanding entrepreneurial behaviour and performance in the family business context.

    Grant Richardson
    Professor Grant Richardson

    Grant is the Professor of Accounting in the University of Adelaide Business School. Grant’s research and interests include understanding the influence of family ownership on a firm’s taxation strategies, earnings management and corporate governance practices.

    Pi-Shen Seet
    Associate Professor Pi-Shen Seet

    Pi-Shen is Associate Professor at Flinders Business School, Flinders University. He obtained his PhD from the University of Cambridge and is also a visiting research scholar at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. With the assistance of a research grant from CPA Australia, Dr. Seet published (with Dr. Chris Graves) published a research book on family businesses in 2010. The purpose of this study was to investigate factors that influence the use of private equity financing amongst family firms in general, and specifically, whether private equity investors can provide a practical solution to the upcoming succession crisis amongst family firms in western economies.

    George Shan
    Dr George Shan

    George is a Senior Lecturer in the University of Adelaide Business School. George’s research and interests include corporate governance practices in family-owned enterprises and understanding in what circumstances family control results in superior financial performance.

    Sam Wells
    Dr Sam Wells

    Sam is a Senior Lecturer in the University of Adelaide Business School, teaching and researching in organisational behaviour and organisational sustainability. As South Australia's 1979 Rhodes Scholar, he completed his doctorate at Oxford in 1983. Sam has worked in and consults to family businesses. Ten years ago he became one of the first facilitators of Family Business Australia's forums, and continues to fill that role. Meeting 10 times per year, members of a forum share their rich and varied experiences in family business, solve problems together, learn from each other and discover their own family business wisdom.

    Professor Ralf Zurbrugg
    Professor Ralf Zurbrugg

    Ralf is deputy head of the University of Adelaide Business School and Professor of Finance. Recently, Ralf successfully applied for an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant for the family business project titled ‘Survival of Family Farms: Capital Raising and Credit Access’. This project addresses one of the most critical issues for the sustainability of the family farm today - their ability to fund the transfer from one generation to the next. The outcomes of the study are expected to provide advice to farmers on how to manage succession planning, better access capital and increase awareness that will lead to a long-term future for their business.

    Ashley Miller
    Mr Ashley Miller

    Ashley has been an adjunct lecturer at the Adelaide MBA for 11 years. In addition, for the past 14 years he has worked in private banking, providing advice to affluent individuals, families and institutional-style clients. He has a strong expertise in banking, risk, asset allocation, superannuation, and estate and succession planning. Prior to joining NAB Private Wealth, Ashley held senior positions at KPMG and ANZ Private Bank, including the Head of Advisory and Risk for ANZ Private Bank's Australian business.

  • Prospective Higher Degree Research StudentsEnquire about joining the group

    Currently, the University of Adelaide Business School offers research degrees at the Honours (undergraduate), Masters (Masters of Business Research) and PhD level. There are many opportunities for students to undertake postgraduate research in the area of family business and work towards highly recognised qualifications from one of Australia’s leading universities.

    Based on the research expertise amongst the FBERG academic community, FBERG is able to offer supervision of higher degree research students undertaking research on family businesses in the following areas: Accounting, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Governance, Internationalisation and Leadership.


    The Family Business research group is actively seeking prospective PhD students to study with us and contribute to our understanding of this important field.

  • External CollaboratorsExplore opportunities for industry and professional collaboration

    The University of Adelaide understands the importance of collaborative research and strong partnerships with industry and professionals in today's global market.

    We view these interactions as essential elements in advancing the University's research and teaching objectives as well as adding value to you as our partners.

    The Faculty of the Professions is renowned for its academic diversity and is home to some of the most respected and eminent researchers at the University of Adelaide. Within the School of Education and ETC, our commitment to innovation and a culture of forward thinking helps to influence the world we live in.

    Our collaborative research activities span across government, business and community groups. Our under-pinning philosophy of research partnerships is to match your community needs and business opportunities with the resources and expertise of our Faculty. The expertise and knowledge of our academic staff, who are specialists in their fields, present great opportunities for organisations to grow and to make decisive contributions that can influence strategic agendas and operational frameworks.

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