January 9, 2018

Purdue Profiles: Maria Marshall

Maria Marshall Maria Marshall, director of the Purdue Initiative for Family Firms and professor of agricultural economics. (Purdue University photo/Rebecca Wilcox) Download image

Maria Marshall, director of the Purdue Initiative for Family Firms and professor of agricultural economics, uses her position at the University to help family-owned businesses succeed. As part of her work, she researches issues relevant to family-run businesses and uses the results to make sure those businesses not only flourish but stay in the family.

Marshall has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and black studies from the University of Nebraska, a master’s in economics from the University of Missouri and a doctorate in agricultural economics from Kansas State University.  

What do you do as the director of the Purdue Initiative for Family Firms?

PIFF’s mission is to help families keep a sustainable and viable family business for future generations while maintaining strong family bonds. We provide research-based information that helps business-owning families through estate and financial planning, strategic business planning, leadership and succession planning, and maintaining family bonds. We have short publications and an online business planner, and we even just launched a YouTube channel.

Why is this work important?

For business-owning families, the business may be their primary source of income, so helping them maintain a sustainable and competitive business is important. Also, particularly in agriculture, almost 97 percent of farms are family businesses, so helping them keep the business in the family is important not only financially but also emotionally.

What inspired you or led you to this line of work?

I realized early in my career helping entrepreneurs start businesses that family support, emotional and financial, was a critical element for success. That led me to believe, particularly in agriculture where most businesses are family businesses, that we had to do a better job of discussing communication, values and goals as part of any strategic or business planning process. This line of work allows me not only to do research on these topics but also discuss the results with family businesses across the state. It was also fortuitous that I met Dr. Holly Schrank at about the same time, and she was a great mentor in this line of research.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?

I’m passionate about Purdue’s land-grant mission. The most rewarding part of my work is being able to research relevant issues that family businesses contend with and then take the results of that research and provide family businesses with solutions. And then being able to provide relevant stories in my class that demonstrate how what we learn in class is used in businesses across that state.

What do you see in the future for the Purdue Initiative for Family Firms?

I would hope that we would eventually grow from an initiative to an institute. We are going to continue to grow our online presence and anticipation to one day be the place where family business owners and practitioners come for information. 

Writer: Megan Huckaby, 765-496-1325, mhuckaby@purdue.edu

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