Lessons from Family Businesses with Jamie Shah – Ep. 141

My guest on this episode is Jamie Shah. Jamie worked in investment banking and Google before returning to her family’s business, Chem-Impex International, which manufactures materials for life sciences companies, as VP of Operations.

Today, she is the managing director at the company and a professor at Chicago Booth, where she teaches a course on family business. Our discussion focuses on lessons to be learned from family businesses, which are more trusted and stable and generate higher returns. We talk about what success looks like in failing businesses, the balance of paradoxes, and how to apply principles that make family businesses successful to all companies.

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Jamie on LinkedIn

Chem-Impex International

Kauffman Fellows

Lee Kum Kee

Family Business as a Paradox by Amy Schuman, John Ward, and Stacy Stutz

Unconventional Wisdom by John Ward

Succeeding Generations by Ivan Lansberg

The Three-Circle Model

HBR: What You Can Learn From Family Business

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni


(2:46) – Jamie’s background and career with Family Businesses

(9:46) – How do you feel like your family’s business is run compared to others?

(11:12) – What was the most interesting Family Business you learned about at Northwestern?

(13:24) – Why do you think there are such high levels of stability, trust, and returns in Family Businesses?

(15:54) – The boring aspect of Family Businesses

(18:53) – What are some observations you have about the different paths within entrepreneurship?

(22:01) – What are some examples of different business goals within Family Businesses you’ve studied?

(25:00) – What are some paradoxes you’ve identified in Family Businesses?

(28:38) – How does your Family Business deal with being uncomfortable in these paradoxes?

(30:16) – Do you think conflict is good because it forces clarity?

(31:20) – Which benefits of a Family Business would be most replicable to other styles of businesses? Which would be most difficult?

(34:29) – Why are Family Businesses cautious to take on debt?

(38:35) – How often is the CEO of a Family Business a member of the family?

(40:44) – How do Family Businesses navigate liquidity, control and capital?

(42:24) – What strongly held belief have you changed your mind on?

(43:39) – What’s the best business you’ve ever seen?

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