Professor John A. Davis is a globally recognized pioneer and authority on family enterprise, family wealth, and family office. Since the 1970s, he has been a leading researcher, author, advisor, and speaker in the family enterprise field, and is the creator of the field’s most impactful conceptual frameworks. For decades, his insights, advice, lectures and writing have helped to develop leaders, professionalize businesses, grow shareholder value, strengthen families, and pass sustainable enterprises from one generation to the next.
A renowned academic and shaper of the family business field, Professor Davis leads the family enterprise portfolio of programs at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He teaches family business management, family office performance, family entrepreneurship, and strategies for family enterprises to position themselves for the future. He is on the Advisory Council of the Inclusive Capitalism Programme on Purposeful Ownership at the Said Business School at the University of Oxford–a research study that explores current family ownership issues. He is an award-winning teacher and researcher, and lifelong creator of innovative education courses and teaching materials that are used at universities around the world.
Trained in management, psychology, and economics, Professor Davis works globally with enterprising families, ownership groups, and business leaders on strategies for the multigenerational success of their families, enterprises, and financial wealth. He advises leading families from over 65 countries on topics such as long-term success; corporate, ownership, and family governance; family wealth and family office; developing next generation talent; succession transitions; conflict resolution and family unity; family, ownership and business strategy; professionalizing the family business and family office; life and career planning; selling the family business; and many other issues important to family enterprises. He is Founder and Chairman of the Cambridge Family Enterprise Group, a global organization he created in 1989 to support family-owned enterprises. It is comprised of two divisions: Cambridge Advisors to Family Enterprise, a highly specialized advisory firm, and Cambridge Institute for Family Enterprise, a think-tank and education and research institute for enterprising families.
Professor Davis founded Harvard’s family business management studies during his 21 years on the faculty of Harvard Business School (HBS). He taught and chaired executive programs, custom programs, and MBA courses, and is the Founding Chair of the Families in Business program that he created in 1997 and led for two decades. He taught family business management, leadership, ownership, governance, change management, and life planning in several programs, including the Owner/President Management program, Boards for Private Companies, Key Executives, Launching New Ventures, Real Estate Management, Leading and Transforming Family Businesses—China, and in custom programs for executive teams and business owners. He was faculty chair of the Crossroads: Discovering the Path Ahead program, which offered individuals at a career or life juncture the opportunity to design a life strategy to achieve their personal and professional goals. He created and led the MBA course, Management of the Family Business, to explore the management, career, and personal issues found in family-owned companies. He taught the MBA course, Building a Business in the Context of a Life, which addressed entrepreneurship, life planning, and personal and business success.
Professor Davis has created the field’s most impactful conceptual frameworks and has written significant works on the challenges and successful strategies of family enterprises. In 1978, with HBS Professor Renato Tagiuri (now deceased), he co-created the Three-Circle Model of the Family Business System, which is the fundamental paradigm in the family business field. He developed the Family Enterprise framework to help families map their collection of meaningful activities and assets that unite and define them, and the Family Enterprise Sustainability framework which distills the three essential ingredients needed for the successful longevity of a family enterprise. He is co-author of the book, Generation to Generation: Life Cycles of the Family Business, a preeminent work in the field. He has published an extensive body of educational materials—case studies, technical notes, and diagnostic worksheets—that are used by graduate schools of business across the globe. He is co-author of the books Next Generation Success and Enduring Advantage. His theories and observations are regularly cited in the media by publications such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Financial Times, Economist, Bloomberg, Bloomberg Television, Forbes, Fortune, Exame (Brazil), and several other publications and media outlets.
Professor Davis delivers keynote addresses at conferences and teaches in workshops around the world for organizations and enterprising families. He speaks at events for the World Economic Forum, Harvard Business Review, YPO and WPO, Family Business Network, Business Families Foundation, Family Firm Institute, HSM (Brazil), Cambridge Institute for Family Enterprise, as well as for universities, global and boutique financial institutions, private member networks, and individual families and companies.
Professor Davis serves as an Advisor to the Board of the Business Families Foundation, and on the editorial board of the Journal of Family Business Strategy. He is a member of the Academy of Management, the Family Business Network, and the International Family Enterprise Research Academy. He is a former member of the editorial board of Family Business Review, the leading journal in the field. He is a founding board member and fellow of the Family Firm Institute, the preeminent association for family enterprise service providers. He is the 2016 recipient of the Richard Beckhard Award given by the Family Firm Institute for outstanding achievements and contributions to the field of family business.
Professor Davis earned his Doctorate in Business Administration from Harvard Business School, his Masters in Economics from the University of Wisconsin, and his Bachelors in Economics from Kenyon College.