Deconstructing Conflict: Understanding Family Business, Shared Wealth and Power

Claire Seaman (School of Business Enterprise and Management, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, UK)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 2 May 2017




Seaman, C. (2017), "Deconstructing Conflict: Understanding Family Business, Shared Wealth and Power", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 23 No. 3, p. 616.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

This book is written by consultants to family business who have addressed in a novel manner one of the major challenges within the realm of family business practice. Starting from a standpoint that conflict is inherent and in fact built into the structures of family business, the text takes the reader through the ways in which conflicts develops, can be analysed and therefore addressed.

The early chapters focus on family business, family firms and family enterprise setting the framework for much of what follows. Whilst avoiding the trap that assumes that family succession is the only successful route forward and highlighting well the alternatives, the focus on managing conflict for a successful outcome is set. The middle section of the book considers the “Conflict Equation”, which captures the factors inherent within the conflict of a family business within an “algebraic equation” model. The notion of an “algebraic equation” with a purely qualitative focus was new to me, but as a way of capturing the factors inherent in family business that contribute to conflict the model worked quite well. There were some interesting mathematical analogies made, too. The “family factor” within the model can never be zero, for example. The argument here is that if the family factor truly is zero, it is not a family business and the approach is therefore inappropriate in any case. For most businesses, however, the family factor does exist and although it may be positive or negative it influences the business nonetheless. There are useful sections, too, on different approaches and some of the comments on legislation as a route to conflict resolution will ring a bitter bell with many a family business.

This is probably a text of interest to consultants and those within their own family business who are looking for alternative approaches. However, there is also scope for academic researchers to consider this text as a “framework” within which family business conflict can be better understood and addressed at a practical level. There is far more academic research to be done on the impact of conflict within a family business and this book does a good job of highlighting some of the reasons why this is so.

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