In January 2019, Dr Shelley Beck took over as the Director of the Nelson Mandela University’s Family Business Unit (FBU). The FBU works closely with leading scholars and family businesses to provide excellence in family business research and teaching, and is a valuable resource for family business owners, advisors to family businesses, researchers, and policy-makers interested in the field. Madibaz News sat down briefly with the Dr Beck and asked her a few questions on her passion for family businesses and where she sees the unit going forward during her tenure as Director.

Interviewer: Talk a bit about your passion for the field of family business. When did your interest start?

Dr Beck: “My passion for family business began at a young age. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a situation where my mom owned her own business and was therefore exposed to the entrepreneurial process and mind-set for a long time.  I want to pass on my knowledge and help family businesses, in particular the next generation family members so that they can take over the family business and ensure the family businesses in South Africa continue on for many generations.”

Interviewer: You just completed your doctoral studies on family businesses. What was it about and what lessons were learnt?

Dr Beck: “My doctorate focused on the parent’s influence on next generation family members taking over the family business. With so many South African Businesses being family businesses it’s an important issue – who is going to take them over? The lessons I learnt from my study are that parents are by far the most important influencer in a child life and they have the ability to influence the way we think and perceive the family business.

Interviewer: What is your vision for the Family Business Unit going forward?


Dr Beck: “First of all I would like to build on the great work done by the Unit’s previous director, Prof Elmarie Venter. She was one of the founding members of the unit and the driving force behind getting the Unit where it is today.  My vision for the FBU of Nelson Mandela University is to grow its size, as well as its reach in the institution and the greater community. It’s important for me that the FBU is able to link the research projects that we are involved in, with issues that are in our local communities. This vision will be achieved through research projects that focus on issues that are relevant to indigenous African family businesses; the interaction of the FBU with societies involved in entrepreneurship activities such as ENACTUS; and through the provision of relevant short learning programmes.”