Alfredo De Massis

FAMILY BUSINESS
Alfredo De Massis
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Alfredo is an acclaimed expert on the management, governance and behavioral issues of family enterprises.

Alfredo’s research has advanced understanding of how family business leaders balance economic and non-economic goals in strategic decision making. His findings show that many family firms make decisions based on preserving socio-emotional wealth rather than economic goals.

“The priorities of family businesses include maintaining family harmony and control of the business, creating jobs for the next generation, succession planning and boosting the reputation of the family in its community,” Alfredo says.

He has also identified an apparent paradox in how family businesses innovate. “Conventional management theory says if you want to succeed in the future, just forget about the past,” he says. “Conversely, my studies show that many family firms are very good at leveraging their tradition, history and heritage as a strategic resource to enable innovation.”

These idiosyncratic goals and resources are distinctive sources of sustainable competitive advantage for family firms, says Alfredo, who works closely with large and small businesses in countries including Italy, Spain, Belgium, the UK, the US and China. He helps them build rigorous and reliable knowledge to promote long-term prosperity across generations.

Alfredo also helps companies and institutions, including the UK government, address the new challenges Covid-19 has triggered for family firms. “Family businesses often struggle with the need to fire people due to decreasing demand, because they aspire to be altruistic to their employees,” he says. Other challenges they face from the pandemic include the need for rapid and unexpected succession, dehumanization of relationships due to remote working, effects of emotional vulnerabilities and salience of patrimonial and liquidity issues for families in business — for example,  because the patient nature of family capital cannot be taken for granted any more.

Alfredo will continue his collaboration and scientific advisory activities by offering intellectual contributions within the Wild Chair in Family Business at IMD. “I am delighted at this collaboration with a world-leading institution that was the first in the world to attend to the leadership development needs of family businesses, where I will be able to expand my intellectual contribution to research in important new directions with the reach enabled by the Global Family Business Center,” he says.

As one of the most productive family business academics globally, Alfredo was named among the world’s 25 star professors for family business in 2015. In March 2018, the International Family Enterprise Research Academy included six of his articles in its list of the most influential recent ones on family firms worldwide.

Known for his ability to bridge disciplines, including history, psychology and management, Alfredo has guest-edited more than 20 special issues of leading academic journals on general management.

He participates in a number of academic and scientific associations connected to family enterprises. “I bring my methodological training and research-focused attitude to these outreach activities,” he says. Among various editorial roles, he is Editor of the influential journal Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice in the Financial Times rank of top 50 journals, and Associate Editor of the prestigious Family Business Review.

Alfredo serves on the boards of public and private organizations internationally, including in Italy, China, the US, Germany, and the UK. He is also an Editor of FamilyBusiness.org, a US social media platform dedicated to share learning resources that help improve the survival and success rate of family firms.

A recipient of several academic honors and awards, Alfredo has received research grants from public funding bodies and private organizations. He has delivered keynote speeches in leading family business conferences and taken on visiting scholar positions and other speaking engagements worldwide.  His seven books include the Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods for Family Business and Family Business Studies: An Annotated Bibliography .

In parallel with his collaboration and scientific advisory role at IMD, Alfredo remains Professor of Entrepreneurship and Family Business at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano in Italy. He will also continue his support for family business projects at Lancaster University Management School’s Centre for Family Business (UK).

Prior to his academic career, he worked as manager for SCS Consulting and the strategy service line of Accenture, and as financial analyst at the Italian Stock Exchange (part of London Stock Exchange Group).

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