The PDFB Retreat is an annual gathering of experienced consultants to family firms. We are a cooperative learning community, sharing in the planning, expense, and responsibility for each year’s Retreat. We meet once a year at the end of April outside Chicago (Evanston, Illinois).

The PDFB mission is to develop our knowledge of the psychosocial dynamics of family owned businesses and family business consultation. We believe that by assembling a small group of experienced professionals for whom psychology forms the foundation of their work, in an environment conducive to learning, the following can be achieved:

  1. Exchange conceptual perspectives on family business systems, the psychology of their members, their developmental processes and the role of the family business consultant

  2. Encourage research and more fully articulated theory

  3. Debate the applications of various psychological, sociological and organizational theories to family firms

  4. Use our knowledge of the psychosocial dynamics of family business to contribute to the advancement of our professional disciplines, i.e., psychology, social work , family therapy, organization development, etc...

  5. Anticipate the course that process oriented family business consultation will take as our knowledge develops


Background. A key ingredient of the mission is to develop depth in the field through interaction of professionals whose training is in psychologically-based fields, i.e., family systems, clinical psychology, psychiatry, social work, and organizational development. Therefore, participants will be sought from these disciplines.
Average experience. Accomplishment of the mission of PDFB requires a base of experience, a foundation in working with family firms that will allow productive interaction between the participants. Participants have an experience range of 25 to 150 cases, yet it is expected that the average participant will have worked with at least 25 family business cases.
Case experience requirement. For individuals who have not previously participated in a PDFB Retreat, the minimum experience requirement will be 25 or more family business cases. For guidance, as there is no universal definition, a family business case is defined as an engagement which has as its focus multiple family members, some of whom are active in a family business. A case might further be defined as an engagement involving 20 hours or more.
Size of group. To encourage optimal participation, interaction and learning, group size is limited to 32 participants.
Grandfather clause. All who have previously participated in one or more PDFB Retreats are members in good standing without strict reference to any of the foregoing details.

Why Participate?

  • Field development. PDFB provides a synergistic learning environment that promotes knowledge, creativity, professional and personal growth, affiliation, respect and fun among participants.

  • Psychology foundation. Being involved with a group of practitioners from diverse psychologically-oriented backgrounds provides a deep and broad discussion of the psychological issues impacting on family firms while enhancing personal knowledge and contributing to the field.

  • Productive debate. PDFB provides a forum for constructive debate, productive critique, and the opportunity to develop or refine insights into theory and practice.

  • Participation. We encourage participants to prepare their thinking and goals in advance of the Retreat, to take risks with their thinking, and to actively participate in an encounter with others interested in learning.

  • Concept development. Although not a requirement of all participants, individuals have the opportunity to present their work-in-progress to the group. Final form is not required.

  • Basics assumed. The experience level of participants allows for advanced discussion without the need to review the basics.

We ask that each individual review the mission and determine your ability to be an active contributor prior to making a decision to attend.