John A. Davis

Senior Lecturer of Business Administration

A faculty member at Harvard Business School since 1996, Professor Davis teaches and researches in the family business, family wealth, and life planning fields.  He is faculty chair of Families in Business: From Generation to Generation, Families in Business/China and Crossroads: Discovering the Path Ahead. Professor Davis also teaches in the Owner/President Management and Key Executive programs.

Professor Davis has taught two entrepreneurial management courses in the MBA program. Management of the Family Business explores the management, familiy, career and personal issues found in family-owned and managed companies; Building a Business in the Context of a Life addresses entrepreneurship, life planning, and life success.

Trained in business management, psychology, and economics, Professor Davis earned his Doctorate in Business Administration from Harvard Business School in 1982. He has served on the faculty of the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, and has lectured on family business management at Stanford University, IMD (Switzerland), INCAE (Costa Rica), Universidad Adolfo Ibanez (Chile), and Universidad de los Andes (Chile). 

Recognized as one of the world's leading experts and advisors concerning family business and family wealth, Professor Davis consults and speaks globally on the topics of dynastic success, family and business governance, succession, developing the next generation, working with relatives, shareholder relationships, and professionalizing the family business. He is the founder and chairman of Cambridge Advisors to Family Enterprise, an organization that advises family businesses globally.
Professor Davis is co-creator of the Three-Circle Model, with Professor Renato Tagiuri, which is the fundamental paradigm in the family business field. He co-authored Generation to Generation: Life Cycles of the Family Business, a preeminent work in the field. He has published on a wide range of topics pertinent to family companies. Professor Davis is completing books on managing the performance of relatives, family business governance, and successful family business dynasties. He serves on the editorial boards of Family Business Review and the Journal of Family Business Strategy. His theories and observations have been cited by the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Financial Times, The Economist, Fortune, Business Week, Exame, Family Business Magazine, and many other publications.

To view video clips of Professor Davis, please click on the appropriate link:

The Role of the Family Business in the World Economy

Interaction with Other Family Business Members

Financial Success

Take Away Value

  1. Family Business Management

    by John A. Davis

    John Davis is developing cases and other course materials on family business management for the Executive Education program Families in Business: From Generation to Generation, Families in Business/China, the Owner/President Management program as well as for other courses. These cases and conceptual notes focus on the management, ownership and family relationship issues faced by individuals in management, ownership and family roles in these companies. He is preparing a book on managing the family business and a second book on managing the performance of family members in family firms.
  2. Family Business Dynastic Success

    by John A. Davis

    Davis is also completing a several year study of successful family business dynasties, examining the management, ownership and family practices that help to perpetuate successful businesses and families. He is developing a book for Harvard University Press on this topic.
  3. Family Business Governance

    by John A. Davis

    Davis's other current work explores family, business, and ownership governance in the family business system. A book on this topic is in process. Included in this body of work is a large-scale survey project on corporate governance of Brazilian family companies and case studies of family business governance.
  4. Globalization and the Family Business

    by John A. Davis

    As business becomes more global and competitive, many family companies are extending their operations through various means to remain competitive in their industries. Professor Davis is teaming with Professor Jon Martinez of Universidad de los Andes and Florence Tsai of Cambridge Institute for Family Enterprise to study how family businesses are adjusting to these competitive pressures and the impact this process is having on business-owning families, and how these families are adjusting to these realities. They have surveyed over 5,000 companies in twelve countries and are producing several case studies, a book, and articles on this important topic.
  5. Life Planning for Executives

    by John A. Davis

    In this relatively new field of research and course development, Davis is researching through in depth interviews how executives create successful and fulfilling lives. He is leading a faculty team in designing an executive program for individuals wanting to transition to a new, fulfilling path in life.