The Value of a Family Business MBA

Contributed by Christopher Pletcher, Cornell MBA ’16

Over two years ago, I made the decision to pursue a career working with my father-in-law in the family business, an industrial coatings application and testing company. At the same time, I enrolled in the two-year MBA program at the Johnson School at Cornell, knowing that I would be joining the company shortly thereafter. With graduation approaching this weekend, I’ve taken some time to reflect on how this decision to join the family business has impacted me over the course of my degree.

There were three amazing opportunities that came about because I had the foresight of the business in which I would be working after business school. These three areas were especially noteworthy due to their foundational influence on my personal development during school. Each provided a new perspective on the decision I had made.

  1. Focused Academic Interest: Having the knowledge of the industry, company, and role I would be entering after business school allowed me to custom tailor my schoolwork to fit my interests to best prepare me for the next chapter. I focused on finance and strategy, the two areas I thought would be most impactful since I would be heading into a leadership role which would help chart out the next decade of the company’s future.
  2. Immediate Real-World Application: I also found that I could immediately apply the concepts I was learning to a real-world scenario in nearly every class. During my two years, I completed half a dozen projects that contributed to the company, ranging from pricing to strategy to marketing. I (and the company) had the added value of my classmates’ input, as most of these were group projects.
  3. Family Business Resources (SFBI): Having a formal resource center to draw on for how to approach family business governance, managerial best practices, leading research, and networking support was a true advantage. The inaugural Cornell Family Business Conference and the Lectures in Family Enterprise class provided incredible insights into the unique relationships between scores of families and their businesses.

While my MBA program is coming to a close, I am excited to begin the next chapter of life, working within the family business. The educational focus, immediate application, and additional resources I experienced during my program were true bonuses which made my program all the more rewarding and useful. I hope you may also experience the value of a family business MBA!

Christopher Pletcher was President of the Johnson Family Business Club from 2014-2015. As President he helped grow the club to over 100 members, launched the CEO Speaker Series and insured a smooth succession to the current club officers. 

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