From her earliest days helping her father with his family business in northern India, Professor Pramodita (Dita) Sharma was drawn to understanding the dynamic of family enterprises, and how they run and dominate the global economy. Today, she’s not alone in that curiosity, but she is among the best in her field.
Sharma was recently named one of the Top 100 Family Business Influencers by "Family Capital", a London-based publication dedicated to the global family enterprise sector, based on a survey of more than 2,000 respondents in the field. Sharma, the Daniel Clark Sanders Chair of Family Business at UVM’s Grossman School of Business, was 1 of only 13 academics who made the list.
Though she can still recall the words of warning from her grandfather when she decided to pursue a career in education — "No wise person would ever work for a salary" — fortunately the curiosity that sparked in her childhood continues to burn more bright than ever as an eminent scholar.
“Learning from business families and teaching about their enterprises is my life’s work,” Sharma says. “As family enterprises dominate our economy and society, I’m constantly learning something new about them every day. Whether from my students or our alums, my peers or my community, insights and ideas from, and for, enterprising families are everywhere if we are open to learning and know where to look."
“There is still so much to know about family business,” she adds. “While business families must deal with the same economic and societal forces all enterprises wrestle with, the family aspect adds another critical dimension to decisions related to ownership, management and governance. Such dilemmas always pose interesting challenges and open unique opportunities too.”
Family business was a fledgling field at the time of her arrival at UVM in 2011, but over the years she has helped define it and firmly cemented it in the scope of academic studies. In addition to her chair at UVM, she is a visiting professor at both the Kellogg School of Management and the Indian School of Business.
“Dita brings a unique dimension to our programs as a leading authority in the area of family enterprise,” says Amy Tomas, the director of undergraduate programs at the Grossman School of Business. “Her energy and enthusiasm for this work has been contagious, inspiring students and colleagues to collaborate with her on such exciting initiatives as the global Family Enterprise Case Competition and Family Business Awards. Dita is truly an asset for our students and all of UVM.”
“Dita has taught me that being in business, particularly family business, is all about turning every problem into an opportunity,” says Grossman senior and co-president of the UVM Family Business Club, Kristen Connors. “I find myself asking how can we continue to do better. Because of her, I not only feel more confident in my ability to improve businesses, but I also feel as though she’s improved my own personal mindset as a result.”
Sharma’s book “Entrepreneurial Family Firms” is widely used by academics in classrooms and her research is focused on the succession, governance, innovation, next generation commitment and entrepreneurial leadership in family firms. Recently, she is delving into the role of spirituality, philanthropy and sustainability on strategic decisions of family business leaders. In total, her research has been published in more than 50 scholarly articles or chapters and ten books.
On Friday, October 2, Sharma will present the 9th annual Family Business Awards to selected Vermont family business, selected by an independent panel on the following criteria: financial success; governance structures; contributions to the community and industry; and innovative business practices or strategies. Join Sharma and the Grossman School of Business for the virtual event at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, October 2.