Dennis Jaffe’s Borrowed From Your Grandchildren: The Evolution of 100-Year Family Enterprises

I admit I never stop to consider the transformative effect family owned businesses and corporations have on our society until reading Dennis Jaffe’s Borrowed From Your Grandchildren: The Evolution of 100-Year Family Enterprises. Many consider Jaffe the leading architect of family enterprise consulting, an acclaimed speaker, and his service to many family businesses and corporations as a workshop leader garners fulsome praise. It is little wonder. His impeccable academic credentials and ongoing contributions on cross-generational family business and wealth to the Forbes Leadership channel make him a singular figure in his field. This is not his book and I expect it will not be his last. It is a fascinating and deep look into the foundations of family owned business, their evolution, governance, and possible future. 


It has the feel of work long in the making to me. He packs an abundance of research into its many pages and harnesses a team of skilled researchers to aid him in his mission. The book has a strong academic tone and, as such, credible statements, theories, overviews are critical to its viability. He divides it into four parts – there is a wealth of secondary material I believe readers may skip if they like with diluting the potential impact of the book. I also believe the book might have even deeper impact if these materials were cut, but it really doesn’t mar the book per se. The four parts have a linear trajectory making immense sense as he begins with looking at the importance family owned and multi-generational businesses have on nearly every aspect of our social and economic life. This is an important starting point and sets the stage for everything after. 

The looks at the evolution and governance of such businesses takes us to the next point in the reader’s journey. There are many graphs, charts, and illustrations along the way, bullet points and text blocks as well, but it never clutters the book’s design. His experience as a Family Business Scholar at the Smith Family Business Program at Cornell University and faculty advisor at the Ultra High Net Worth Institute come into play here. He is an excellent presenter and laces a variety of materials up into a coherent reading experience.


The final part of the book points to the future of family owned and cross-generational businesses. His same virtues shine through here without fail and, though he guards against the enormous challenges such bodies face in a fast developing world, I think he has an overall optimistic point of view about their ongoing value and prosperity. The writing through the whole book keeps reader’s attention and never feels slow going. This is essential reading for the sort of businesses he discusses with the book and it is my conviction it will prove enormously popular. Dennis Jaffe’s Borrowed From Your Grandchildren: The Evolution of 100-Year Family Enterprises reaffirms his position as one of the true-long term thinkers in business study and his scholarly excellence, but it likewise shows you must reckon with him as an exceptional writer.

Nicole Killian

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Nicole loves to go cross country skiing, swimming, reading and critiquing books, listening and critiquing music, some culinary arts, pottery, spending time with my daughter, cheesy horror films.

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