Tag: Koch Center for Family Business



Spencer Burke

Emma Vogel, a video intern in Olin marketing and communications, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

Spencer Burke, adjunct lecturer in family business for WashU Olin, will assume the role as Eugene F. Williams Jr. Executive in Residence for the Koch Center for Family Business, Dean Mark Taylor and Professor Bart Hamilton announced in May.

The appointment is the latest development following the spring 2018 announcement of the Koch Center for Family Business, launched with the support of the St. Louis Koch family’s gift $9 million. That center is the outgrowth of the Olin family business program, funded with a $1.09 million donation from the Kochs in 2016.

The Olin family business initiative began to “educate future business leaders on unique family business issues while providing resources for family enterprise as they grapple with these challenges.”

Prior to accepting this position, Burke served as the leader of the family business initiative and has been the organizer and moderator of Olin’s highly successful annual family business symposium. He is a principal at the St. Louis Trust Company, where he leads the firm’s family business advisory practice.

Additionally, Burke currently serves as chairman of the board of the Mallinckrodt Foundation, which seeks to fund biomedical research in St. Louis and throughout the United States.

“I have taught at Olin for eight or nine years and I am excited to no longer be the lone ranger in family business,” Burke said. He will now join a team at the Koch center—led by Hamilton, the center’s inaugural director, Olin’s Robert Brookings Smith Distinguished Professor of Economics, Management & Entrepreneurship—that will help to tackle family business education.

Burke also feels that that through the establishment of the Koch center and the family business initiative, the subject matter is being recognized as an important part of Olin Business School. While in the position, he wants to be a part of the team that animates the important role of family business in the U.S. economy.

Much like the mission of the Olin family business initiative, Burke places importance on business sustainability. Along with the other key players in the family business center, Burke will be the resident practitioner of family business issues.

As the executive in residence, he will be available for consultation at the request of students and will also be establishing office hours for the upcoming semester. He is excited for the opportunity to have more interaction with students in the family business program. This will allow for valuable, real-time analysis and problem solving in relation to real-life family business issues that students encounter. Burke feels that through more interaction, the program will achieve even greater success.




Bart Hamilton

Nearly three years ago, Barton Hamilton was preparing to moderate a panel discussion at Olin’s first family business symposium, among the earliest manifestations of the school’s fledgling family business initiative.

Three symposia and $9 million later, Olin has launched a full-fledged research center dedicated to the issues surrounding family-owned business—with Hamilton taking the lead as its first director.

Dean Mark Taylor appointed Hamilton to the post effective February 2 and with that appointment, the Koch Center for Family Business is officially launched. Sure, Hamilton said, there’s a lot of work to do moving forward.

But he’s thrilled to be part of realizing the vision of the Koch family—which includes two WashU alums and St. Louis real estate developers—who underwrote Olin’s sixth research center.

“The Kochs told me this is part of their legacy,” Hamilton said. “I feel great responsibly to be a steward for their legacy and do what I can do to make the vision a reality.”

A focus on research

Elke and Paul Koch, BSBA ’61, JD ’64, MBA ’68, and Fran and Roger Koch, BSBA ’64, MBA ’66, launched the focus on family business in 2016 with a $1.09 million donation to Olin Business School. The donation paved the way for a family business initiative featuring regular symposia on the subject, a course on family businesses, student practicum projects with family business owners and a student club.

The effort was, in part, also driven by interest from students, who approached former Dean Mahendra Gupta about the subject and later presented him, at his request, with a full-fledged outline and justification for the program.

Hamilton—who is also the Robert Brookings Smith Distinguished Professor of Economics, Management and Entrepreneurship—said the foundation laid by the family business initiative will remain in place and expand.

The secret sauce of the new center, however, will be research into the unique dynamics that drive family businesses and their power, representing 64 percent of the US economy.

“We want to know the secrets to success that Cargill and Enterprise have, but there’s a lot of companies in the $50 million to $200 million range that are the backbone of a lot of communities,” Hamilton said. “Those are also businesses that face a lot of challenges and we want to understand what those challenges are and figure out how we can help them achieve more success.”

For example, are family businesses more successful in the long run than non-family businesses? They’re not thinking about the next quarter, they’re thinking about the next generation. Yet, there is a tradeoff: How do family businesses introduce new ideas and innovation when the tendency may be to do things the way they’ve always been done?

Another area ripe for research: What is the interaction between family dynamics and business dynamics? As families grow, how do they provide dividends and wealth to an expanding slate of brothers, sisters and cousins, while continuing to invest in the growth of the business?

He is excited by the prospects for what research can tell us about family business, how it can help family business owners improve and how it will guide students who will be owners of, customers of, clients of and partners to family businesses.

“This is something we can be distinctive in,” Hamilton said. “We’re putting our flag on the map and telling the world that this is something that’s important to Olin and to Washington University.”

Next steps

One advantage of a funded research center, Hamilton said, is the ability to purchase data and fund research on a scale unavailable before. Data into family-owned and closely held businesses is hard to come by, often requiring a lot of manual effort to compile.

In fact, two of his own research projects are still a long way from publication because of the mammoth effort involved in collecting and analyzing the data. One project is looking at the differential performance of CEOs in family businesses, depending on whether the CEO came up from within the family, came up in the business (but were not family members) or came from outside the business altogether.

Hamilton said the family business symposia will continue, as will a class in family business led by adjunct professor Spencer Burke, principal at the St. Louis Trust Company, who has served as the initiative’s de facto leader since its launch.

Other steps ahead for the Koch Center for Family Business include searching for and identifying promising research projects, identifying staff administrative support and recruiting a board of advisers for the center.

“The Kochs want us to be a research leader in this area,” Hamilton said. “There’s not much that’s been done given the importance of this to the economy.”