Dennis T. Jaffe, PhD

For over 40 years, I have been one of the leading architects of the field of family enterprise consulting. As both an organizational consultant and clinical psychologist, I help multi-generational families to develop governance practices that build the capability of next generation leadership and ensure ongoing capability of financial organizations and family offices to serve their family clients.

My work with families helps inform financial advisors and wealth managers about the knowledge and skills needed to serve their client families. I’m an acclaimed speaker and workshop leader in programs for business families and financial service firms. I am an associate with Wise Counsel Research, a think tank that sponsors my research and offers professional education workshops.

For 35 years, I was professor of Organizational Systems and Psychology at Saybrook University in San Francisco, where I’m now professor emeritus. I received my B.A. in Philosophy, M.A. in Management and Ph.D. in Sociology from Yale University.

My books guide business families in working together to build a great family and a thriving set of family enterprises.

Cross Cultures: How Global Families Negotiate Change Across Generations

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Cross Cultures discusses a deepening of the understanding of family wealth and family enterprises citing theories coming out of cross-cultural psychology and negotiation strategies. It explains the practical, commonsense strategies that families in each culture (and their advisors) can use to resolve the differences threatening the fabric of the family.

Stewardship in Your Family Enterprise

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After a family has created wealth in a successful family business, they naturally want to see the wealth create success and fulfillment in the next generation, and the continuation of some form of shared family enterprise. But family relationships do not easily make for good business or financial partnerships, and the family must work hard to succeed over generations.

Working With the Ones You Love

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Acclaimed guide for families about the challenges of working together—how to deal with conflict, succession, work roles, planning for the future and other predictable aspects of combining work and family. Includes many self-assessment tools and family activities to promote effective work and family relationships.

Publications & Tools

I’m the creator of several widely-used tools to help families learn about themselves and constructively grow across generations.

The Values Edge uses a deck of cards to help individuals and families create personal and organizational values pyramids. The on-line Family Enterprise Assessment Tool enables multi-generational business families to understand the current status of their family dynamics and enterprise, and explore their areas of difference.

The Values Edge: Defining Personal and Family Values

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The Values Edge employs Values Cards to help an individual, couple, family or team to define their Personal Values Pyramid, and then work together to create a Family or Team Values Statement.

Each kit includes a deck of values cards, along with colored post-it stickers for transferring values to a Display Card that preserves your Values Pyramid in a visible format that can be worn as a name card. By sharing personal values arranged in colorful pyramids, people in a family or a work team can easily experience their similarities and differences.

Family Enterprise Assessment Tool (FEAT)

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Developed by Dr. Jaffe and Premier Growth, the Family Enterprise Assessment Tool is the first online navigational tool enabling multi-generational families in business together to discover the current state of their family enterprise, providing an opportunity for creating a framework for structured discussion to effectively make family and business decisions that are right for them.

Every family and business has strengths and areas for improvement. The Family Enterprise Assessment Tool enables your family to anonymously gather family/business stakeholders’ perceptions in an easy and safe environment to provide a snapshot in time. It then provides a detailed analysis of all the data so you can hold productive family and business conversations vital for shaping the future of the family and enterprise.

Family Meetings

As a member of Wise Counsel Research Associates, I’m now in the fourth phase of my 100-Year Family Enterprise research project, resulting thus far in four working papers.

My global insights have led to teaching or consulting engagements at Hult University in Dubai, the Pacific Asia chapter of Family Business Network and I’m on the Advisory Board of Chinese University of Hong Kong. As part of the Polaris team working with the Family Business Network, I created a roadmap for family and business sustainability.

Governing the Family Enterprise

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Upon reaching the third generation, business families face a set of new challenges. Internal and external forces threaten the family’s ability to continue as partners. But the potential for what they can do if they decide to continue is incredible. A family reaching this milestone faces a choice point — should we continue together as a financial or business entity, or just distribute what we have and let each household more forward in their own way? A few courageous families make a conscious decision to continue united. By sharing the experience of families who have successfully crashed through this barrier, we offer a roadmap of the hard work and expansive outcomes that result.

Releasing the Potential of the Rising Generations

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The secret to building great family enterprises is the ability to foster rising generations who are well prepared and eager to meet the enterprises yet-to-come challenges. Based on interviews with more than 70 enterprising families, Releasing the Potential of the Rising Generations shares unique experience based insights into successful transitions of family enterprises over at least three generations. These “100 Year Families,” over the centuries, have created and sustained enterprises that generate over US$200 MM in annual revenues.

Good Fortune: Building a Hundred Year Enterprise

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Through 18 case studies we illustrate how each of the 38 families organized its family and business or financial affairs, thus parting the curtain on very public and highly private families. While we have protected our respondents’ confidentiality, their stories shed light on their internal values, organization and activities, and how they overcame often-significant crises and conflicts.

Three Pathways to Evolutionary Survival

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Just as we benchmark financial and organizational performance, so family business owners want to benchmark best practices of governance and family interaction that help sustain their family enterprises over generations. This study defines and compares the best practices used by 192 of the largest and most successful global families to preserve their wealth and connection as a family across several generations.

Active in nonprofit governance, I’ve served on the boards of the World Business Academy, Saybrook University, and the Center for Mind-Body Medicine.

I’ve been an active member of the Family Firm Institute since its inception, presenting at annual conferences, serving on the board, designing and delivering educational courses in their GEN program and writing for the Family Business Review. In honor of my achievements, I was recognized with the prestigious Richard Beckhard Award for my contributions to FFI and the field.

I was also named Thinker in Residence in 2007 for South Australia, helping the region design a strategic plan for the future of Australian entrepreneurial and family businesses. I was the researcher for the JP Morgan 2005 study of best practices of multi-generational families, and a more recent study of succession in Asian families. In 2010 I was a visiting professor at the undergraduate family business program of Stetson University.

I have been a frequent contributor to periodicals such as Family Business, Journal of Financial Planning, Private Wealth, Journal of Wealth Management, and Worth magazine. My work has been featured in Inc., NPR Marketplace, Entrepreneur, Time and The Wall Street Journal, and I was profiled in People Magazine. In 2005, I received the Editor’s Choice Award from the Journal of Financial Planning for my article on family business strategic planning.

Pioneering Work in Values-Based Organizations and Holistic Health

As a founder and contributor to the field of organizational transformation and change leadership, I co-authored a dozen influential management books, including Getting Your Organization to Change, Rekindling Commitment, and Take this Job and Love It! As founder of Changeworks Global, I guided organizations and family businesses to long-term change by unleashing the power of their employees. My research on the governance of start-up companies, After the Term Sheet is an important contribution to the field of entrepreneurship. I’m co-creator of Mastering the Transition Curve, StressMap, and other tools that support personal and organizational success.

For three years, I was co-editor of The Inner Edge, a magazine focused on spirituality in business. I was deputy director for research at the Macarthur Foundation sponsored Healthy Companies Network from 1992-95. As co-founder of the web firm MemeStreams, I pioneered on-line executive development tools. The video Managing People through Change was voted one of the Best Products of 1991 by Human Resource Executive. In the 70s, my holistic health books, From Burnout to Balance (retitled and reissued as Self-Renewal), and Healing From Within, were each honored with the Medical Self-Care Book Award, and I was co-author of the international bestseller, TM: Discovering Inner Energy and Overcoming Stress.