Q&A With New KCFE Co-Director, Justin Craig

This summer, our CFE welcomed new professor and new co-director, Justin Craig, Ph.D. (JC). He joined us from Northeastern University in Boston. Prior to that, he was Co-Director of the Australian Centre for Family Business at Bond University and earlier still served on the faculty at Oregon State University. Especially passionate about teaching and working with students, he is also widely published in peer-reviewed academic and practitioner journals. His working life started with 15 years in family businesses - his own and two others - in Australia. Until you meet him in person, we posed some questions, so you can know him better.

Professors and CFE Co-Directors John Ward and Lloyd Shefsky

John Ward: Justin, starting at the beginning, how did you get interested in the study of family business?

Justin Craig: A confluence of factors combined to pique my curiosity, but my interest primarily stems from being from a business family ... then working for business families ... and launching and building businesses with my brother. It was the first business world I knew ... and really the only one I wanted to understand more about.
Lloyd Shefsky: What are some of the principal reasons you accepted the invitation to move to Kellogg?
Justin Craig: The opportunity to work with and learn from thought leaders in the field like yourself, John Ward and Ivan Lansberg was a huge draw ... but the more I got to know about what distinguishes Kellogg particularly in terms of the student community, present and past ... the decision was what they talk about in the classics ... "a no-brainer".
Lloyd Shefsky: How do you expect being at Kellogg will enhance your ability to help MBAs, Exec Ed students and Alumni?
Justin Craig: Students learn with and from each other ... the quality of the students at Kellogg, whether MBA, Exec Ed or alumni, and the diversity in terms of generation, country of origin, industry, etc ... has a significant impact on the learning environment. There is no richer canvas than at Kellogg to bring family business concepts to life.
John Ward: As an Associate Editor of The Family Business Review, what do you see as the most interesting topics for research in the field now? And, what research topics are you working on?
Justin Craig: There are so many interesting unexplored topics in the family business space that it is hard to narrow them down. The popularity of "family business" as a research destination has dramatically increased in recent years. So, too, has the standard of the discourse ... and that is good for everyone. I hope to bring together other Kellogg faculty to explore nuances of family business from their disciplinary perspectives. The caliber of Kellogg faculty is tops. As they focus even some of their attention on the challenges facing family businesses and their leaders ... the possibilities are endless. In my case, I always have multiple research projects going. There are two that are of most interest to me now. One is the role of business families in "Civic Wealth Creation" and the other focuses on "Innovation in the Family Suite".
John Ward: How do you see Kellogg most contributing to the field of family business?
Justin Craig: Kellogg's Mission to "Inspire Growth" firmly aligns with what next generation leaders in family enterprise are being charged to deliver. And, it is what the researcher and professorial community intimately understands. Growth in the family business context is potentially more subtle than in the corporate context. The stakeholder groups are different and the success metrics are couched in a longer-term horizon ... I could go on ... and on. But, the School's mission-driven agenda on growth and scaling assures focus on something that is tangible and purposeful for an enterprising family.
Lloyd Shefsky: You've taken student groups to several countries to study family business practices. What have you seen to be the biggest differences and similarities from country to country? How does the value of the students' experience compare visiting family businesses in the US versus abroad?
Justin Craig: Wherever I go in the world, I am amazed at how similar families in businesses are with one another. The best way to test this is to encourage experiential education initiatives ... or what I like to refer to as "whites of the eyes" learning. The culture may be different, but when a parent talks about his or her aspirations for their offspring, the reaction is the same. Earlier this year I was in Saudi Arabia and Italy with separate student groups. Even with language barriers, when a question was asked of a family business leader ... the students just had to "watch the eyes" to know how deeply the leader cared about, in particular, family related challenges. Families in business are more the same than they are different.
John Ward: Over the past year you have been academic director at Kellogg for two intensive immersion weeks for MBA students from the Indian School of Business who work in their family businesses. What subjects have most interested them?
Justin Craig: Governance and Culture by far hold the most interest ... but close on the heels are personal innovation, managing biases and networking on the global business stage.
John Ward: At Kellogg each year, we have more than 150 MBA and EMBA students from business owning families involved in our Family Business electives and the Family Enterprise Club. How do you see that our Center for Family Enterprises can offer them a special experience?
Justin Craig: Actually ... it is not what the CFE can offer ... it is what opportunities the students offer us to deliver innovative and exciting ways for them to learn. We are in the unique position to be able to accompany their formal classroom learning with a cadre of complementary activities. Our Center's default answer to expand on their interests, the "what", "how" and "where" they want to learn, is to take up the challenge with a ... YES!
Lloyd Shefsky: John, I am surprised you didn't ask Justin the question that almost always is on your mind, so I will ask it: 'Justin, how about those Cubs?'
Justin Craig: I haven't been to a game yet, but hope to go soon. Until then, do I get points for knowing that the team is owned by a business family and that they won recently by one run?
Visit Professor Craig's Faculty Page: click here.