Dennis Jaffe is a research associate at Wise Counsel Research where he leads their 100-Year Family Enterprise Research Program. He also serves as a faculty advisor at the Ultra High Net Worth Institute, a Family Business Scholar at the Smith Business Program at Cornell University, and is a regular contributor to the Forbes Leadership channel reporting on cross-generational family business and wealth.  This impressive assortment of roles qualifies him in unique ways to speak to sustaining and even increasing wealth over multiple generations in his book entitled Borrowed From Your Grandchildren: The Evolution of 100-Year Family Enterprises


His exhaustive study of the subject runs over 400 pages in its hardcover edition but readers, especially those with a deep interest in the topic, should not allow its length to intimidate them from reading this fine work.  Jaffe has genuine composure as a writer and his authorial experience gives him the necessary skillset to lay out the book at a brisk pace. He covers the subject over the course of sixteen chapters of varying length with a single appendix at book’s end and accompanying index. The book does have an extensive preamble with a preface, listing of the subject’s research time, and a thorough detailing about Wise Counsel Research Associates. Many readers will wish he dispenses with the prefatory material and get into the heart of the book while others will find the descriptions engrossing. 

Jaffe posits from the outset that the family owned business is one of the essential defining social institutions in human life and any learned observe is likely to agree. They surround us from cradle to grave and exert unquestionable influence over global economic life. His stated purpose to learn from the most successful of business families through stories and studies of their economic trajectories will lead the way. He looks as well at what he terms “generative” families, those sustaining success over multiple generations, and unique challenges facing such families in the modern world. He touches on the evolution of such families, exploring each detail in storytelling fashion, and moves on to including a look at how “governance” shapes the dynamics of such successful family enterprises. The book ends in Part 4 with ideas about how such family endeavors can continue evolving in a rapidly changing modern landscape. 


The book’s systematic nature should be no shock from an academic and his likewise academically mind collaborators. Nevertheless, the book is never a dry reading experience and, as mentioned before, the pacing engages readers throughout the entirety of the book. He does include a number of charts and graphs throughout the work, but devotes the preponderance of the text to his rigorous look at the subject. It is a work combining intense focus and immense scope within the same frame. Borrowed From Your Grandchildren: The Evolution of 100-Year Family Enterprises tackles a topic few writers or research have dared broaching this far and Dennis Jaffe’s work, along with his accompanying team, will stand for some time as a definitive take on the subject.

Garth Thomas