University of Tennessee

Pop-Up Course Gives Students Insights into Family Business Issues

March 11, 2020

A new pop-up class in the Haslam College of Business is helping students gain an understanding of key issues related to family businesses. The one-credit course, called “Family Business Bootcamp” (BUAD 499), addresses generational succession, family dynamics in business and strategies for family firms’ growth and success. About a dozen students are participating. 

Anne Smith, head of the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship at Haslam, says the centerpiece of the course was an all-day, in-person class held in late February. Leading up to that session, students were required to complete a short online writing assignment about their experience with a family firm and play a family business simulation from Harvard called Honey Heritage.

Haslam faculty presented at the class, including Smith, Jenny Banner and Alex Miller, as well as a variety of community leaders and management advisory board members. The students broke into small groups to discuss hypothetical situations and concluded the day with a question-and-answer session.

“It was a fabulous event,” Smith says of the eight-hour class, “with many administrators dropping in and business leaders and students extremely engaged.”

Willie Packard, a junior majoring in food and agricultural business, says he enrolled in the course because he is considering taking over the full-service gas station his family owns.

“It was fascinating to hear stories and insights on family businesses and decisions they specifically make,” Packard says. “I believe I have gained more knowledge that will help me in the future from this course.”

Senior business management major Sergio Cornejo says he benefitted from spending time with others who have ties to family businesses. 

“My experience with this class was phenomenal because we were all in the same shoes,” says Cornejo, whose family owns three Mexican grocery store-restaurants. “We all have experienced the good and the bad that comes along with being in a family business.”

To complete the course, students must produce a deliverable based on interviewing a member of a family firm about issues from the class. They will also play Honey Heritage again and write a brief report about how the course readings and discussion provide additional insights the second time around.

Kali Holt, a senior studying management, integrated business and engineering and international business calls the class truly life changing.

“One of the greatest benefits of this experience is listening to all of the successful entrepreneurs and family business owners that dedicated time to help us,” Holt says. “Each person also expressed their confidence and excitement about how we would be leaders in the future. Being able to ask them questions about topics like financial strategies, organizational strategies and how to keep a strong family dynamic was invaluable.”



Stacy Estep, business writer/publicist (865-974-7881,