Research on family firms

Family firms are all around the world and they constitute a prevalent type of organization, not only among private SMEs but also among larger and publically listed organizations. Moreover, family firms are different from other firms of organizations, since they differ in their ultimate goals, their governance and organizational structure, as well as their resources. Thus, a more profound understanding of this type of organization is needed. My goal is to study relevant aspects of family firm behavior in a rigorous way that does not only advance family firm research but also research on general management and entrepreneurship.


For papers on family firm and innovation please click here: Family firm innovation

For papers on family firm succession please click here: Family firm succession


Family businesses and change

Our recent AMR publication (see section on innovation: Family firm innovation) deals with adaptation of family firms to discontinuous technological changes – a quite specific situation. As many colleagues asked me if and how our findings can be generalized to adaptation to changing environments (which might not be changing in a disruptive way), I worked on a working paper that looks at family businesses and change in general. The pdf document can be downloaded by using the following link: FamilyFirmChange


Shared stories and family firm innovation

The stories a business family tells at home are not a side issue, but they do matter: First, those stories can serve as a mean to increase the children’s interest in and commitment to the family firm. As such they are a good thing. Second, however, the shared stories also affect how the family cooperates at work – which, in turn, affects innovation. Whether the stories have a positive or negative effect on innovation all depends on their content. Stories focused on the founder lead to exclusion of younger family members from decision-making, severe conflicts among family members, and an a priori exclusion of several strategic options. Consequently, innovation tends to be low when business families glorify their founders and venerate the founder’s myth. However, some business families focus their stories not on the founder, but the family. They share stories that put the family, its emotions and its values in its center. In those families, the children still feel the commitment to the family firm, yet their involvement into the business is less restricted, they practice inclusive decision-making and as a consequence the level of innovation tends to be high.

Citation of the paper: Kammerlander, N., Dessi, C., Bird. M., Floris, M., Murru, A. forthcoming. The Impact of Shared Stories on Family Firm Innovation: A Multi-case Study. Family Business Review. DOI:  doi:10.1177/0894486515607777

Link to paper: Link


Family, wealth, and governance

How to maintain family wealth over generations?

This paper focuses on the challenges of larger (later generation) family firms: How can diverging interests of family members be aligned? We study four typically applied governance constellations – the uncoordinated family, an embedded family office, a single family office, and family trusts – and outline their prevalence, their advantages, and also their problems. In particular, we focus on agency problems, namely family blockholder conflicts and double-agency costs. We conclude with some statements about the decline (or non-decline) of family wealth. This conceptual paper is forthcoming in Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice.

A summary of the findings of this paper is presented here: Summary

Citation of the paper: Zellweger, T., Kammerlander, N. forthcoming. Family, wealth, and governance: an agency account. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice.

Link to full text: Link


Value creation in family firms: A model of fit.

In this conceptual article, my co-authors and I call for more integrated research on family firms and their (dis-)advantages. We conclude that much research on, for instance, resources of family firms as well as governance structures of family firms has been conducted, but far too few effort has been dedicated to exploring the nexuses of those aspects.

Besides calling for more multi-theoretical theory building, the paper discusses, amongst others, the following topics.

  • “Goal ambidexterity”: We discuss three different types of family firms that are different in terms of their goals: Dreamers that focus on non-financial goals, traders that focus on financial-goals, and professional owners that manage both, financial and non-financial goals. We argue that professional owners (who possess “goal ambidexterity”) will benefit most in the long term.
  • We further discuss strategy formulation in family firms and note how an effectuation approach can be helpful not only for startups as discussed in prior literature, but also for family firms.
  • Moreover, we also discuss the different layers of governance that family firms need to be aware of: firm governance, owner governance, family governance, wealth governance. We highlight existing literature and discuss the interwoven nature of those aspects.

Link to article: here

Citation of the paper:

N. Kammerlander, P. Sieger, W. Voordeckers, T. Zellweger. 2015. Value Creation in Family Firms: A Model of Fit. Journal of Family Business Strategy 6(2): 63-72. doi:10.1016/j.jfbs.2015.04.001


Trusted advisors in the family firm succession process

What are the benefits of trusted advisor involvement during family firm succession? And what are the risks?

Succession is one of the most important but also most difficult parts in the family firm lifecycle. No wonder that many family firms build on the help of external trusted advisors such as lawyers, accountants or bank advisors, to help them managing the succession process. But what are the risks of such involvement? Under what circumstances are advisors beneficial and when are they detrimental? In our conceptual paper my co-author Alexandra Michel and I investigate this phenomenon in a paper forthcoming in Journal of Family Business Strategy.

A summary of the findings of this paper is presented here: Summary

Access to full paper: here (then click pdf)

Citation of the paper:

A. Michel, N. Kammerlander. 2015. Trusted Advisors in a Family Business’s Succession-Planning Process — An Agency Perspective. Journal of Family Business Strategy 6(1): 45-57


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