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Family Business

When you'll study it
Semester 2
CATS points
15
ECTS points
7.5
Level
Level 7
Module lead
Laura Costanzo
Academic year
2021-22

Module overview

This module recognises the increasing importance of family businesses given their substantial contribution to the economy of each nation across the globe. It responds to the increasing need for scholars and practitioners of developing an awareness and understanding of family businesses’ peculiarities, which differentiate them from non-family businesses, and inherent issues, by adopting a multi-theoretical approach that draws on established theoretical perspectives of strategy, entrepreneurship and general management. Family firms are heterogeneous due to the variation of family and business goals and varying institutional contexts in which they are embedded. Such heterogeneity often requires scholars and practitioners to approach the ubiquitous phenomenon of family business through a comparative analysis of theoretical approaches and practical applications to strategic decision-making in family businesses.

Specifically, this module examines relevant strategic models of family firms’ competitive advantage to account for the influence of family-business interface and varying macro-institutional contexts across the globe. Particular attention will be given to family events that mark the family business’ life trajectory. For instance, inter-generational change is an opportunity for value-creation and renewal in family firms, yet at the same time, if not managed properly, it can undermine the socio-emotional wealth which is key to family firms’ longevity. Succession, equally, can lead to a leadership vacuum with the potential to undermine the future sustainability of family businesses. Choosing the right calibre of successor to lead and ensure continuity of the family firm is a complex task that every family firm, regardless their size and country of origin, has to face. It is increasingly recognised that such a task needs to be professionally managed. In order to survive, governance models need to untangle the issues of family members' involvement (and possibly non-family members depending on the context) in the decision-making, ownership and management of family businesses. Furthermore, the social structure of family businesses can represent a source of family conflicts that might threaten not only the family but also the business. The ability to detect potential conflicts before these arise and manage them is critical to the day-to-day management of family businesses and their sustainability in any country context and industry.

In summary, this module provides a holistic comprehension of family business, particularly of the family-business interface, at the intersection of strategy, entrepreneurship and management perspectives, by paying particular attention to the institutional context where family businesses are embedded. Practical applications will be drawn from leading examples of family businesses in the USA, Western Europe, China, India, and other emerging economies in Central and South America, Africa, and other Far-Eastern Asian countries where applicable.

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