Borrowed From Your Grandchildren by Dennis Jaffe 

Borrowed From Your Grandchildren: The Evolution of 100-Year Family Enterprises isn’t the first book from Dennis Jaffe, but you can argue it is his magnum opus. It is an extended work, well over 400 pages, but it isn’t opus for page count alone. It’s instead a sprawling study of generational wealth through the prism of family business leaving no stone unturned in examining the phenomena, its evolution, and its possible path moving forward into the 21 st century. Dennis Jaffe is a renowned figure in its study at major universities such as Cornell, among others, and is an in demand public speaker. He also works as a financial consultant for numerous business firms and family firms leading workshops.


I think it wise he has included so many illustrations throughout the course of the book to help illuminate his points. While there is nothing wrong with his prose, framing this long book is a single continuous block of text might have overwhelmed readers thus turning them away from what it has to offer. The balance between these two dueling elements is well done.  The level of research he puts into his work is comprehensive and never strains boundaries of believability. He never makes blind assertions he fails to back up through data or historical references and he lays out his cogent thinking in a manner any reader can comprehend.

He structures his book in a befitting its size. Jaffe lays it out in four parts with an appropriate amount of supplementary material underlying both the work and the work put into it. A comprehensive index allows interested readers to reference any number of points in the book without undergoing the experience of tackling the text from beginning to end. I advise, however, that readers make every effort to experience the full breadth of this book to understand, in toto, its information and ambitions.

His prose is never erudite or puts readers at a distance. It is clear to me that Jaffe’s experience as a writer has taught him concision is wise, especially when untangling such a huge theme, and he tailors the book’s “voice” as just that – him speaking to the reader and addressing all of the issues he aims to cover within this book. In the hands of a lesser writer, the book stumbles, loses its way, and bores worst of all. Jaffe writes instead, not to the academic alone, but to a wider readership that may have varied artists far beyond the scope the instructor or researcher. This is a notable accomplishment in a book full of them.


Part Four of the book is where he does deep into the future of generational wealth and family owned enterprises. It is, in my view, the crux of the text and he hits his highest notes here. Dennis Jaffe’s Borrowed From Your Grandchildren: The Evolution of 100-Year Family Enterprises will enthrall, impress, and inspire generous readers willing to take their time plowing through his many layers and I believe it will have relevance  for many years to come.

Clay Burton