New Enterprise Development, a final-year module at Dublin City University Business School, has been awarded the International Council for Small Business (ICSB) Global Award in Entrepreneurship Education Excellence at the 2023 ICSB World Congress, held this year in Jinju, South Korea.

The New Enterprise Development module tasks business students with coming up with a new idea and developing an investor-ready business plan. By the end of semester, students pitch their entrepreneurial idea in a hands-on Dragon’s Den style session in front of their classmates, lecturers and DCU Business School alumni – the ‘Dragons’. The module is led by Dr Eric Clinton, Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship at DCU Business School and Director of the DCU National Centre for Family Business.

The ICSB Global Awards honour outstanding contributions that demonstrate dedication, innovation and impact in entrepreneurship education.

New Enterprise Development

Undergraduate Offering can be viewed here.

Schlesinger Global Family Enterprise Case Competition (SG-FECC)

In January 2023, DCU and Arizona State University (ASU) entered a joint-undergraduate team to compete at the Schlesinger Global Family Enterprise Case Competition (SG-FECC) at the University of Vermont’s Grossman School of Business, USA. The annual global case competition prepares students to understand the critical issues that are unique to family enterprise by applying the knowledge and expertise they have developed in the classroom towards solving complex family business cases.

Photo L-R: Connor Breheny (UVM), Thomas Lynch (DCU), Grace Mollaghan (DCU), Alexandra Barbosa (ASU), Eva Vazquez Ortiz (ASU), and Catherine Faherty (DCU).

Our undergraduate team consisted of two final-year Business Studies students—Grace Mollaghan and Thomas Lynch—along with two ASU students. Since early November, our DCU National Centre for Family Business faculty, Dr Catherine Faherty and Dr Eric Clinton, had been preparing the students for the competition through regular case resolution workshops and family business dynamics training sessions.

More than 200 students from 12 countries across four continents participated at 2023 SG-FECC. Across three tough rounds, our students applied the knowledge and expertise developed in their training sessions, enabling them to solve the complex dynamics at play within the cases in front of a distinguished panel of international judges, which included CEOs of leading international family firms.

This was DCU’s first time entering a team at SG-FECC, and our students did the DCU-ASU partnership proud, showcasing their team-working, problem-solving, and communication skills on a global stage.

The strong DCU-ASU partnership was evidenced at the SG-FECC Awards Ceremony when team coaches Dr Catherine Faherty (DCU) and Eva Vazquez-Ortiz (ASU) received the 2023 SG-FECC Undergraduate Joint Team Coach Award in recognition of their “commitment to offering constructive, helpful and insightful feedback.”   

For more information about the Bachelor of Business Studies at DCU Business School click here.

On 4th May the National Centre for Family Business hosted its first event of the year, providing attendees with insights on how family values and purpose are the key ingredients in fostering talent in your Family Business and to the longevity and success of the Family Business.

Building on the Centre’s webinar launch of “Surviving a Crisis as a Family Business” on 25/01/2021, this conference focused on sourcing and retaining talent within a Family Businesses.

Dr. Eric Clinton, Director, DCU National Centre for Family Business was delighted to welcome 

  • Professor David Collings, Professor of Human Resource Management and Associate Dean for Research, DCU
  • Rebecca Harrison, Managing Director, Fishers of Newtownmountkennedy Ltd
  • Denis Doolan, Strategic Head of Inclusion and Diversity, AIB
  • Dr. Catherine Faherty, Assistant Professor in Enterprise, DCU

Eric spoke with Catherine about her research “Surviving a Crisis as a Family Business.” The research found that in general employees of family businesses displayed loyalty and dedication throughout the pandemic.  Strong and committed employees positively contribute to the long term health and sustainability of Family Businesses in Ireland. Fostering talent is key to surviving and thriving in the long term.

Professor David Collings, gave us an insight into how putting purpose at the centre of your people strategy is critical for the future of fostering talent in your family business. The pandemic has been a cruel reminder to businesses everywhere of how important it is to never take healthy or motivated employees for granted. What employees crave few businesses offer. Professor Collings advised attendees to consider

  • How does organisational purpose translate into EVP? 
  • What core values underpin purpose? 
  • How are those values lived and rewarded?

Becci Harrison spoke about her 2nd Generation family business, Becci is Managing Director of family-run Fishers of Newtownmountkennedy Ltd, Boutique Department Store founded in 1979.  She also launched Food at Fishers Ltd in 2013, an award-winning café, both located in the heart of county Wicklow.  Becci spoke about how has dealt with running a retail business through the pandemic and beyond.

We were also joined by Denis Doolan, Strategic Head of Inclusion & Diversity, AIB.  Denis is a graduate of DCU. Denis has over 25 years’ experience in national, international and global roles, connecting teams with strategic initiatives to drive alignment, engagement, action and results.  A highly versatile leader, his track record spans strategic planning and implementation, in-house and consultancy roles, operational management, people leadership and C-suite and Boardroom engagement.  Denis spoke about how business values are not always explicit, yet they have a big impact on company culture and the way a business operates.  Denis also spoke about determining purpose in a business and how to re-purpose that when you are in business a long time.

The webinar can be viewed in full here:

Sincere thanks to NCFB’s partner AIB in presenting this webinar and to Stephen Bergin, SB Videobase for producing the webinar.

The Women In Leadership podcast brings you fascinating audio interviews with inspirational Leading Women.  The latest episode, published April 26th 2021, features Prof Maura McAdam on Navigating Family Business.

Have a listen to the full podcast conversation here.

The Curious Professor Giving Women Entrepreneurs A Voice

Maura McAdam is Professor of Management at DCU Business School and she is a feminist researcher.  She says she is dedicated to honoring the voices of her participants, the idea of giving voice and honoring the voices of women who often are slow to take the credit for their achievements.  “These are voices that so often have not been heard.”

Family Business

She is often surprised at how women sometimes minimise their role in a family business.  They can say things ‘you mean like my wee business’.

Navigating entrepreneurship or leading a family business is often new territory for women in a family business especially where traditionally the first son would have been seen as the one most likely to take over.

In a family business there needs be time and effort devoted to succession planning Prof McAdam says.  “In the Centre for Family Business in DCU we say succession is a process not an event so you need to start early.  You need to start those conversations”.  When you are going against cultural norms this is especially the case.

Women Navigating The Tech World

Prof Maura McAdam is conducting research with women leading businesses through her work in DCU as part of Genre Project an Irish Research Council Project Gender Net initiative which is looking at women’s lived experience in high tech comparing Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Israel.  They are half way through and have interviewed 100 entrepreneurs, VCs, business angels and incubator  managers.  They are motivated to capture the women’s lived experience.  ‘It’s about the masculine norm of technology and looking at the strategies women adopt to be seen as legitimate.’  Prof McAdam finds that just by asking questions of the women and how they navigate going to meetings, who they bring with them, even they way they dress, starts a reflective journey for these women.  It starts a process of reflection and thinking about strategies they have often adapted, maybe dressing  in a certain way or taking their dad with them to a meeting.’

Dressing Down for Credibility

“Dress has show up in my research.  In tech when women were starting off, being seen as a legitimate entrepreneurs, they would dress down and maybe hide their femininity.  Dress is sometimes used to gain credibility or to stand out.”

McAdam says its a constant juggling effort that women find themselves doing.  “There are conflicting social roles in business, I am supposed to be the leader, the daughter and the wife.  Research is looking at all the juggling that is involved for women and knowing when to play them”.


Confidence for women in business is about self efficacy Maura McAdam says.  It is about thinking ‘Can I do it, do I have what it takes to do this.’  It is really important to work on confidence she believes.  Negative thinking can stop women going forward in entrepreneurship.

Allyship – You Need A Tribe

Prof McAdam believes we all need our tribe around us.  We are not born having the right people around us.  We need others with similar experience to share our vulnerability with and to build up our confidence.  It is good to have like minded people around us, McAdam believes.  Women are great at networking and connecting women with other useful contacts or sharing their experience and useful learning in entrepreneurship and it can be a lonely journey otherwise.

As well as networking McAdam believes it is important to mentor others and to important to mentor both men and women.

Advice to Women In Technology

Women In Technology Build your tribe your network, find out about suppliers VCs getting yourself known in that space or the subsector of technology that you are involved in.

There are plenty of resources for entrepreneurs with training courses and accelerator programmes. ‘Grab with both hands and avail of all supports.’

Networks are important for social networks.  You may have left a large organisation so to be able to go to event where you are surrounded by other women in a similar situation to you.  Women help each other.  They can introduce you to others and be supportive.

In the podcast Prof Maura McAdam talks about cyber feminism, digital entrepreneurship and navigating the workplace in your own way.

Pearls of Wisdom

  1. Don’t wait for permission, don’t wait until I’ve got the masters or 10 years experience, just do it.
  2. Do not be afraid to say I am an entrepreneur.  I have been to events where very successful women say ‘oh you mean my wee business or my project.  Claim it!
  3. Level up, For women who want to advance in their management career Maura says level up, work to the job, the next level.  You need to aim high if you want to achieve.  Whatever job you are doing, start thinking about the job the next level up.
  4. Morning Matters When I wake up in the morning I could go a hundred miles an hour and I want to do the emails, etc so I have had to slow myself down.  I find when I do my meditation, which it has helped my creativity.  Align to your to values.  Say to yourself who do I want to show up as today.
  5. Send the elevator back down, this idea of helping younger women and early career researchers.  It’s my responsibility to help others both male and female early career academics.

Prof McAdam also shares her financial advice she got from her dad which is priceless.  She also talks about sustainability and her own ‘go to music’ choice in the podcast.  Have a listen it will be time well spent.

*This article was first published on the Women in Leadership website on April 26th 2021.


The first in the new series of podcasts being produced by the DCU National Centre for Family Business is now available

Episode 1: Female Leadership in Family Business

Few studies have been undertaken to identify the gender related barriers and opportunities to succession and top leadership for women in Irish family businesses.  This study comprised interviews with female leaders in family businesses, of various sizes and sectors, from across the Republic of Ireland.

Participants were women who are, or recently have been, managers and/or directors of their family businesses in which a male family member of the same generation is also involved in management or directorship.  Half of the participants came from family businesses that have not yet undergone succession (i.e. leadership transfer) and half were post-succession firms.

Traditionally, women in family business have played vital, albeit largely invisible, informal and unpaid roles in the business.  Although these roles are today much more visible and formalised, with a growing number of women assuming senior leadership positions, there is still evidence that succession by the first-born son remains the norm.

Surviving a Crisis as a Family Business – Cashflow Podcast

DCU National Centre for Family Business has produced this podcast series in association with the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and AIB Bank. On 25th January the NCFB launched “Surviving a Crisis as a Family Business” report.

The survey had two main aims.

Firstly, to conduct the first all island research study that assessed the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Irish family businesses. Secondly, to understand how family business teams respond during crises. 84.8% of CEO’s surveyed were concerned about insufficient cash flow over the next six months in their businesses. On the webinar which aired on 25th January we touched on cashflow with our industry experts.

It is widely acknowledged that businesses don’t fail because they are not profitable they fail because they do not manage their cash – they run out of money.

We are joined today by Eimear Fitzgerald, who is Head of Business Banking branch network in AIB covering Dublin North & West and Darren McDowell who is a senior partner with Harbinson Mullholland.

Harbinson Mulholland is a Belfast based accountancy firm and home of the Northern Ireland Family Business. On this podcast we will discuss cashflow in more detail as respondents in the research acknowledged the need to manage cashflow better. 

Trustworthy leaders have fared better, despite taking difficult measures such as salary reductions and layoffs  


24th January 2021: A new report from Dublin City University’s National Centre for Family Business shows that despite 83% of CEOs reporting their business to be negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Irish family businesses have demonstrated resilience and a strong commitment to continuity.

Despite a number of difficult measures taken by family business CEOs to ensure their company’s survival, such as salary reductions, temporary layoffs, and reduced hours, the research shows that trustworthy leaders have fared better, particularly those who demonstrated concern for employee well-being during the crisis, as they were viewed in a more positive light by their teams.  

Surviving a Crisis as a Family Business marks the first all-island study of family business practice that includes businesses from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It captures the lived experiences of over 250 participants from a broad range of sectors and insight into the realities they’ve been facing in their respective industries during this COVID-19 pandemic.

  • 83% of CEOs report their business will be negatively impacted by COVID-19
  • 79% experienced a negative impact on company sales and 63% on company production
  • 98% of CEOs report that the pandemic will change their business model going forward
  • Key concerns for family business CEOs over the next six-month period include: Loss of revenue (96%), insufficient cash flow (85%) and possible loss of family control of the business (25%)
  • Measures family businesses had taken, or planned to take, to minimise the threat of the pandemic include: temporary layoffs 47% and permanent layoffs 28%; Reduced working hours 53% and shift to remote working 55%

Participants surveyed spoke about a number of factors they believed to have contributed to their company’s survival.

  • Innovation and adaptation has been key for many, with 98% of CEOs reporting that the pandemic will change their business model going forward.
  • A resilient mindset and a commitment to continuity. Participants had learned from past challenges and setbacks and cited the survival of previous economic recessions, world wars, turbulent industry cycles as being a key source of strength during hard times.
  • Taking a Step Back: Family business leaders utilised business closure periods to evaluate the business through a strategic planning lens and long-term perspective.
  • Seeking Out Advice and Support: 81% of family businesses utilised governmental supports to offset the negative impact of the pandemic on the business and drew upon external expertise to minimise the threat of the pandemic. 32% reported using banking institution supports. 

The full report is available here:

Surviving a Crisis as a Family Business 2021

64% of all businesses in the Republic of Ireland and 74% of businesses in Northern Ireland are family-run affairs, with family businesses employing two-thirds of the workforce in the Republic, contributing significantly to employment opportunities and the welfare of families in local communities.

Speaking at the launch of the report, author Dr. Catherine Faherty of DCU’s National Centre for Family Business, who specialises in trust dynamics in family-owned businesses, said:

This research shows that the family ownership structure can be an advantage during difficult economic times and while leaders are having to make tough business decisions with sparse information, those leaders who have been transparent with their teams and demonstrated a genuine concern for the treatment and well-being of their employees, have fared significantly better during the crisis. We hope that this report will provide useful, practical steps and tools for family businesses managing the current crisis and future crises in years to come.”

The research was carried out by the DCU National Centre for Family Business in partnership with the Ulster University, the University of Central Florida, the Northern Ireland Family Business Forum, Harbison Mulholland and AIB Bank.


Ian Smyth, lecturer of Human Resource Management at Ulster University Business School, said:


“The findings of this study point to the critical challenges faced by family firms across the whole island of Ireland as a result of the Covid pandemic. Nonetheless, there are reasons to be positive: the resilience and adaptability displayed by the firms that participated is commendable, as is the loyalty and dedication of their staff.  

At Ulster University we are proud of our partnerships – with Harbinson Mulholland in the NI Family Business Forum and now Dublin City University and University of Central Florida as part of this extensive study. I would urge all stakeholders in the family firm sector to carefully consider the results and recommendations presented here.”  



Notes to Editor:

Survey data was collected across a seven month period (March – November 2020) with input from over 250 participants including 53 family business CEO’s, owners, managers and employees across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The sample was representative of a variety of sectors including: Hospitality (15%), Retail (15%), Wholesale & Distribution (11%), Manufacturing (9%), Transport & Storage (9%), Construction (9%), Motor Trade (8%), Services (6%), Finance & Insurance (4%), Healthcare (4%), Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing (4%), Business Administration & Support Services (2%), Information & Communication (2%), Real Estate (2%).

**Measures family businesses had taken, or planned to take, to minimise the threat of the pandemic.

  •       Reduced salary/benefits for managers 34% and employees 25%
  •       Temporary layoffs 47% and permanent layoffs 28%
  •       Reduced working hours 53%
  •       Shift to remote working 55%
  •       81% reported utilising governmental supports to offset the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the business, while 32% reported using banking institution supports

8th December 2020:  DCU National Centre for Family Business announces world-renowned family business expert Dr. Justin B. Craig is set to join the upcoming family enterprise executive education programme – Family Business Continuity: Sustaining the Family Business across Generations.

Ahead of Ireland’s first family business executive education programme, beginning 18th January 2021, the Centre announces that Dr. Craig will join the Executive Education team which includes Irish and global family business thought leaders.  Prior to pursuing an academic career in the late 1990s, Craig worked for one of Australia’s prominent entrepreneurial business-owning families and in entrepreneurial ventures with members of his family.

Craig is recognised internationally for his impressive research record and his work in understanding the challenges and opportunities of entrepreneurial family businesses and those who steward them.  He is the ‘educator-in-residence’ to a small stable of multigenerational business-owning families around the globe.  His wealth of experience working with family businesses as a practitioner and rigorous research portfolio has positioned Dr. Craig as a world leading expert in family business practice and entrepreneurial excellence.

The Family Business Continuity executive education team also includes Centre Director Dr. Eric Clinton, family business trust expert and DCU Assistant Professor Dr. Catherine Faherty, and Paul Hennessey, former Partner at PwC where he led its family business practice for over twenty years.

Family businesses who register to begin the DCU programme in the new year will also benefit from the insights of successful multigenerational family business guest speakers, including Tom Roche, Chairman of NTR plc, a leading international third-generation family business in the infrastructure sector, and Kevin O’Connor, Chairman of General Paints Ltd., a third-generation family business in the paint industry whose products include the well-known Irish brand, Colourtrend and Curator.

Family business teams interested in registering for the upcoming online executive education programme at Dublin City University can contact the National Centre for Family Business team by email at with the subject line ‘2021 Executive Education’.  Queries regarding the programme can also be directed to the NCFB team by email.  There are still a limited number of places available for the January 2021 entry cohort.

Wed, 25/11/2020 – The following news story is an excerpt from the Irish Times (9 Oct 2020) “Succession: Daughters have their work cut out in family businesses” by Olive Keogh. Capturing the essence of recent father-daughter succession research led by Principal Investigator Prof Maura McAdam at DCU Business School and National Centre for Family Business. 

“One of the decisions most likely to rock a family business to its foundations is succession. Who will replace Mam or Dad at the helm and what’s the potential impact of the choice on family relationships?

At one time the succession path was clear. Sons took over from their fathers. Times have changed but daughters are still significantly under-represented at the top of family firms. Prof Maura McAdam from DCU’s National Centre for Family Business thinks she knows why.

“Establishing credibility as the next heir can be particularly challenging for daughters because the role of successor is traditionally male and the right of the eldest son,” she says. “This means daughters have to engage in much greater efforts to overcome perceptions of gender inequality, to build a legitimate successor identity and to be recognised as the company’s leader by both family and non-family members and wider stakeholders.

“In short, daughter successors must engage in particular forms of identity work if they are to overcome the general invisibility of women in family businesses.”

McAdam is the co-author of Anointed or Appointed? Father-Daughter Succession within the Family Business, which was published last month. It’s based on a study of five Irish family businesses in which the father chose a daughter to succeed him when there was an eligible son in the business.

“The preparation process is particularly vital where a daughter is succeeding her father,” McAdam adds. “She needs to develop independently and become highly visible in her own right.”

Some of the ways in which female successors were found to be doing this was by adopting a different style of leadership to their fathers (typically moving away from a traditional top-down approach) and introducing radical ideas or significant changes to make their mark.


For Flora Crowe of Crowe’s supermarkets in Co Clare, the transition to the managing director’s role was gradual and natural. She has been involved in her family’s business from the time she was old enough to help out, and she joined full time in 2008 following a commerce degree and a master’s in business. Crowe is one of seven children (two of her brothers also run their own sites) and she succeeded her parents about three years ago.

“I’d always been involved, even during college, so I was the most obvious family member to take over,” she says. “Initially, there was some resistance to me from within the grocery trade, as areas like butchery were very male dominated. But people got used to the fact that they had to deal with me.

“I had worked alongside my parents for years, so I knew the business inside-out, and they prepared well me by putting me out front in meetings and discussions with suppliers from a few years before.

“Covid has been my biggest challenge since taking over, but I joined the business in the middle of the economic crash so I’ve worked through a crisis before,” she says. “This time we had to cope with a sudden colossal jump in sales and react to the situation almost overnight by introducing home delivery and broadening our stock significantly to include hardware items like paint.

“We’re based in our community so we were determined to get people what they needed, and this was where having strong supplier relationships paid off. We also benefited from having great staff, who pulled with us to get all of the necessary Covid measures in place as quickly as possible.”

Settling in

Niamh Fitzgerald is director of hotels for the Louis Fitzgerald group. She has been running this side of her family’s business since 2017. Her father, Louis, built up the pub and hotel group over 50 years. Three years ago, he felt the time had come to have the succession discussion. He is still involved in the business but four of his children now run different parts of it while he has taken a step back.

“Louis encouraged us to learn the business from the ground up and very much took the view that if we proved ourselves and were capable, we should be given the opportunity,” Niamh says. “I think it’s probably easier to be a daughter in a lead role in hospitality than in some other sectors as there’s more of a tradition of women senior roles. The difficulties I experienced when I took over were more to do with me settling into the job than any gender issues.

“Broadly speaking I do things in a very similar way to my dad, and I think when you’ve been trained by a parent, you tend to think about the business in a similar way as their knowledge has shaped you and influenced your management style.

“But when the time came, he encouraged me to step up and start making the big decisions on my own. However, it’s great to have him in the background as a sounding board or to offer advice.”

Maura McAdam says the Crowes and the Fitzgeralds are good examples of the modern family business at work. “The leadership is much more collaborative, and it’s very encouraging to see visionary fathers who are choosing their successors on merit rather than gender,” she says.”

The full Irish Times article by Olive Keogh is available here

Family Business Executive Education – A First for Ireland

As family firms evolve across generations, the needs of the family, the owners and the business will change. To address these evolving needs and to meet the family’s desire to become a multigenerational business, DCU National Centre for Family Business has developed Ireland’s first Executive Education programme for family businesses.

This programme provides family business leaders with the knowledge and skills to design appropriate governance structures for their business. The programme’s faculty are leading international family business experts and thought leaders, who will share best-practice insights on the development of governance structures within the three key domains of family business:

  1. Family
  2. Ownership 
  3. Business

The development of the Family Business Continuity Programme is a direct result of our team’s engagement with family businesses across the island of Ireland. Through our regional roadshows, national conferences and local community engagement, we have witnessed the growing need for formal education to overcome challenges and ensure multigenerational continuity.

Further details of the 2021 Executive Education programme can be found on the official programme webpage here.

To register your interest in the programme, please contact our team by email at using the subject line ‘Executive Education 2021’. 

The programme brochure can be downloaded at the file button below:

Family Business Continuity – Sustaining the family business across generations