In compliance with multiple recent studies on family businesses, this work surpasses the dichotomous approach that sees the family and the business as often aim-conflicting institutions which coexist in the same organizational system. It rather considers family influence as a systemic variable within the endowment of resources and capabilities created by the family group. Synergies, vice versa hindrances, coming from the combination, mobilization, and leveraging on these resources and capabilities through family influence may respectively increase or decrease business competitiveness, influencing the endurance of the firm. Based on these assumptions, a group of families that have been able to perpetuate their business for at least three generations is analyzed. In order to assess their attitude to being successful family businesses, we adopt the Transgenerational Entrepreneurship framework, defined as “a family’s mindset and capabilities to continue their entrepreneurial legacy of social and economic wealth creation across many generations” (Cruz Serrano et al. 2006, p. 1). A convenience sample of twelve family businesses, run at least by the third generation, operating in different industries and geographical contexts (clusters) is investigated. Four of them are located in the Prato industrial district (textile-fashion, logistics), four in the Arezzo area (textile-fashion, agro-food and constructions), four in the Chianti area, in the provinces of Siena and Florence (wine business). The research adopts qualitative methodology through the submission of in-depth interviews both to family and to non-family members of investigated enterprises. Based on the conceptual framework developed within the “STEP (Successful Trans-generational Entrepreneurship Practices) Research Project” (Cruz Serrano et al., 2006), interviews covered multiple structural, governance, and managerial aspects of investigated family firms. The interview outline provided six sections (success perception, entrepreneurial orientation, ownership structure and management/governance system, family role and culture, succession management, role of external context) aimed at investigating the perceptions and opinions of the interviewees according to their organizational role and own point of view. Discussion of findings devotes specific attention to the aspects of generational transition and external environment. Regarding the former, a broader argumentation concerns the kind of resources and knowledge transmitted from predecessors to successors and the formal and/or informal methods adopted to accomplish the transfer process. Regarding the latter, greater emphasis is given to the kind and ways through which the embeddedness of the firm in a specific geographical and economic context (cluster) influences the family business and its development. Results reveal that investigated family businesses succeed in managing generational transition avoiding potential father-son conflicts through the sharing and perpetuation of family values. Household concord and business success are kept and strengthen in time ensuring the growth of the organization and widening of market scope. Succession has been managed informally until the present time, placing greater emphasis on transmission of tacit knowledge from predecessors and most expert employees to successors, according to a logic of “physiological changeover” between family generations. In time, the acquisition of know-how and competencies by successors, achieved through formal education, has increased relevance. A forward looking at next transitions reveals the need of more formalized succession management practices and increasing importance of codified knowledge acquisition by the heirs. Differently from the majority of micro and small firms located in the same cluster, which perish or face considerable challenges in keeping the business alive along subsequent generations, the analyzed firms show an uncommon capability of maintaining and eventually empowering their competitive positioning, keeping the firm in the hands of the owner family. They gain from the territory the critical factors (labor and row stuff) to ensuring their production quality standards and, in some cases (agro-food and textile-fashion businesses), benefit from the notoriety and image associations of the local area, reinforcing their brand. Social capital also plays a relevant role, however, its influence on the business seems to be of a twofold nature and somehow contradictory. On the one part, social ties between the firm and the local community strengthen business relationships, reducing opportunism and favoring the sharing of norms and value. On the other, they inhibit the achievement of risky initiatives on the part of the owner family. This latter, in fact, feels a sense of responsibility in the sakes of local people and worries that hazardous actions might reflect negatively on the number of jobs created in time and, more generally, on the social and economic benefits that the business activity has brought to the territory. The organization size seems to play a critical role. The achievement of a certain dimension, in terms of both employees and turnover, as well as complexity of business structure, enables the firms to function as a point of reference for other companies and the local community (leading firms). They represent a benchmark in terms of business practices and they are recognized to providing economic and social benefits at the local level. Research results might provide useful information both to family business owners and to academics in order to understand the antecedents of family firms endurance along multiple generational transitions. Furthermore, they shed light on few entrepreneurial phenomena that take place within a specific economic and social context such as a cluster, revealing the type of influence that the territory might exert on the business activity. Though useful, these findings are of an explorative kind and should be supplemented by further investigations. Advanced analyses should provide an enlargement of investigated sample, and eventually the adoption of quantitative research methods, as well as a widening of the range of considered environmental variables. International comparative surveys on family businesses located in clusters of different countries might be also interesting

Zanni, L., Nosi, C. (2011). Knowledge and resource provision for managing family succession: evidences in Italian clusters. In Doing Succession in Europe. Generational transfers in family business in comparative perspective (pp. 101-129). ZURICH : Schulthess.

Knowledge and resource provision for managing family succession: evidences in Italian clusters

ZANNI, LORENZO;NOSI, COSTANZA
2011-01-01

Abstract

In compliance with multiple recent studies on family businesses, this work surpasses the dichotomous approach that sees the family and the business as often aim-conflicting institutions which coexist in the same organizational system. It rather considers family influence as a systemic variable within the endowment of resources and capabilities created by the family group. Synergies, vice versa hindrances, coming from the combination, mobilization, and leveraging on these resources and capabilities through family influence may respectively increase or decrease business competitiveness, influencing the endurance of the firm. Based on these assumptions, a group of families that have been able to perpetuate their business for at least three generations is analyzed. In order to assess their attitude to being successful family businesses, we adopt the Transgenerational Entrepreneurship framework, defined as “a family’s mindset and capabilities to continue their entrepreneurial legacy of social and economic wealth creation across many generations” (Cruz Serrano et al. 2006, p. 1). A convenience sample of twelve family businesses, run at least by the third generation, operating in different industries and geographical contexts (clusters) is investigated. Four of them are located in the Prato industrial district (textile-fashion, logistics), four in the Arezzo area (textile-fashion, agro-food and constructions), four in the Chianti area, in the provinces of Siena and Florence (wine business). The research adopts qualitative methodology through the submission of in-depth interviews both to family and to non-family members of investigated enterprises. Based on the conceptual framework developed within the “STEP (Successful Trans-generational Entrepreneurship Practices) Research Project” (Cruz Serrano et al., 2006), interviews covered multiple structural, governance, and managerial aspects of investigated family firms. The interview outline provided six sections (success perception, entrepreneurial orientation, ownership structure and management/governance system, family role and culture, succession management, role of external context) aimed at investigating the perceptions and opinions of the interviewees according to their organizational role and own point of view. Discussion of findings devotes specific attention to the aspects of generational transition and external environment. Regarding the former, a broader argumentation concerns the kind of resources and knowledge transmitted from predecessors to successors and the formal and/or informal methods adopted to accomplish the transfer process. Regarding the latter, greater emphasis is given to the kind and ways through which the embeddedness of the firm in a specific geographical and economic context (cluster) influences the family business and its development. Results reveal that investigated family businesses succeed in managing generational transition avoiding potential father-son conflicts through the sharing and perpetuation of family values. Household concord and business success are kept and strengthen in time ensuring the growth of the organization and widening of market scope. Succession has been managed informally until the present time, placing greater emphasis on transmission of tacit knowledge from predecessors and most expert employees to successors, according to a logic of “physiological changeover” between family generations. In time, the acquisition of know-how and competencies by successors, achieved through formal education, has increased relevance. A forward looking at next transitions reveals the need of more formalized succession management practices and increasing importance of codified knowledge acquisition by the heirs. Differently from the majority of micro and small firms located in the same cluster, which perish or face considerable challenges in keeping the business alive along subsequent generations, the analyzed firms show an uncommon capability of maintaining and eventually empowering their competitive positioning, keeping the firm in the hands of the owner family. They gain from the territory the critical factors (labor and row stuff) to ensuring their production quality standards and, in some cases (agro-food and textile-fashion businesses), benefit from the notoriety and image associations of the local area, reinforcing their brand. Social capital also plays a relevant role, however, its influence on the business seems to be of a twofold nature and somehow contradictory. On the one part, social ties between the firm and the local community strengthen business relationships, reducing opportunism and favoring the sharing of norms and value. On the other, they inhibit the achievement of risky initiatives on the part of the owner family. This latter, in fact, feels a sense of responsibility in the sakes of local people and worries that hazardous actions might reflect negatively on the number of jobs created in time and, more generally, on the social and economic benefits that the business activity has brought to the territory. The organization size seems to play a critical role. The achievement of a certain dimension, in terms of both employees and turnover, as well as complexity of business structure, enables the firms to function as a point of reference for other companies and the local community (leading firms). They represent a benchmark in terms of business practices and they are recognized to providing economic and social benefits at the local level. Research results might provide useful information both to family business owners and to academics in order to understand the antecedents of family firms endurance along multiple generational transitions. Furthermore, they shed light on few entrepreneurial phenomena that take place within a specific economic and social context such as a cluster, revealing the type of influence that the territory might exert on the business activity. Though useful, these findings are of an explorative kind and should be supplemented by further investigations. Advanced analyses should provide an enlargement of investigated sample, and eventually the adoption of quantitative research methods, as well as a widening of the range of considered environmental variables. International comparative surveys on family businesses located in clusters of different countries might be also interesting
9789783725553
Zanni, L., Nosi, C. (2011). Knowledge and resource provision for managing family succession: evidences in Italian clusters. In Doing Succession in Europe. Generational transfers in family business in comparative perspective (pp. 101-129). ZURICH : Schulthess.
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