Wilkes University


Wilkes University Professors, Students Research Family Businesses in Northeast Pennsylvania

Wilkes University Professors, Students Study Family Businesses in Northeast PennsylvaniaThree Wilkes University professors and their students are researching family businesses in northeast Pennsylvania in conjunction with the Family Business Alliance at Wilkes University. The lead researchers are Morgan Clevenger, assistant professor of entrepreneurship, Ellen Newell, assistant professor of psychology, and Jeffrey Alves, professor of entrepreneurship and dean of the Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership. Also assisting is Lanie Jordan, executive director of the Family Business Alliance at Wilkes University. 

As part of the study, pre-alert postcards were mailed to 5,000 businesses in Bedford, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Schuylkill, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties. Clevenger, the study’s principal researcher, said, “Companies interested in this study will complete a survey online at surveymonkey.com or have the option to have a hard copy of the survey. Additionally, local business owners can opt to participate in face-to-face interviews.” 

The interviews are conducted by Wilkes students, who work in pairs to visit with the CEO or designee of a company and explore questions related to the business’ culture, governance and decision-making procedures. 

“These interviews help with the research because it gives a perspective on how different family-owned companies are operating throughout northeastern Pennsylvania,” Jordan said. “The Family Business Alliance at Wilkes University is excited about this inaugural research regarding the health of family firms in northeastern Pennsylvania.  Each question has been designed by the alliance to determine the health of family firms in our area. These important findings will be crucial to our organization’s growth, as we strive to build new educational forums and workshops, business tools and assessments for our membership and the community at large.  Our goal is a harmonious family and a healthy family enterprise.” 

The research began in fall 2014 as part of Clevenger’s Entrepreneurship 201 class, “Nature and Essence of Entrepreneurship,” during which current and former business alliance members were interviewed. For both spring and fall 2015, Clevenger and Newell are co-teaching an independent study class, “Research in Entrepreneurship,” in which high-performing students are invited to assist with the research. 

“Wilkes University continues to emphasize excellence in our academic programs, including faculty-supervised research by our students,” said Alves. “Our faculty and students will be able to help family-owned businesses address today’s most pressing needs. This initiative also serves northeast Pennsylvania in being a positive force for economic development and promoting entrepreneurship.” 

As part of the spring semester 2015 independent study entrepreneurship research class, five students are engaged with on-going research. Kate Thomas, a senior marketing and management major from Schuykill Haven, Pa., serves as project manager and coordinates schedules and team assignments. David Graff, a sophomore integrated media major from Pittston, Pa., serves as brand manager and helped design the pre-alert postcard, hard survey and Facebook page. Additional team members assisting with field interviews and data analysis include juniors Jamie Seyler, a marketing and management major from Pine Bush, N.Y., and Nicole Santorelli, an entrepreneurship major from Hillsborough, N.J., and sophomore Britton Heim, an entrepreneurship major from Roebuck, Pa. Interviews with local family-owned businesses give voice to local entrepreneurs to discuss their culture and family governance as well as the most pressing needs of today’s businesses. The students will present their preliminary results at the Global Landscapes Conference, hosted at King’s College on April 16-17, 2015. 

The Family Business Alliance was developed by regional business owners and is a member-driven organization that aims to enable local family businesses to maintain and grow a profitable business and successfully transfer management and ownership to the next generation. The alliance provides its members with executive educational programs, enhanced networking opportunities with fellow family business owners, a forum to discuss common issues and concerns, and exposure to nationally recognized experts to ensure that the businesses’ needs are constantly identified and addressed. 

For more information about this research, contact Morgan Clevenger, assistant professor of entrepreneurship; Jeffrey Alves, professor of entrepreneurship and dean of the Sidhu School of Business and Leadership; Ellen Newell, assistant professor of psychology; or Lanie Jordan, executive director of the Family Business Alliance at Wilkes University, at FBA.research@wilkes.edu, or call 570.408.2783.