The extant literature on family firms has concentrated on succession planning and typically, on the experiences of western industrialized countries. This has skewed research and impeded our understanding of the dynamics of family firms, particularly their growth, evolution, processes and the exercise of power within the firm. In recent years, as family firms reform their organizational structure and processes, professionals and 'outsiders' are now brought into the firm to better 'manage' and oversee the firm and its activities. These effects are however not well understood and we do not know how they affect the governing process. Through the development of case studies of Chinese family firms in Malaysia, this paper seeks to map out the critical processes and the actors, including the function of non-executive directors, enabling a better understanding of the dynamics underpinning Chinese family firms and their growth. The paper also argues that the effectiveness of any given board structure is not predetermined but open to processes and mobilizing interests within the firm.