The purpose of this paper is to provide insight into the specific structures and routines of family firms and to highlight their strengths and weaknesses using a case study.
The case describes a French SME in the construction sector that is undergoing succession from the eighth to the ninth generation. Both generations have offered their viewpoints. The succession context allows us to better distinguish what makes a family firm uniquely resilient and what may easily turn into a weakness.
The case indicates that the trust that family owners have cultivated with employees allows the firm to operate less formally and with less rigid procedures. It also encourages employees to take initiatives and contributes to their greater engagement. On the other hand, it may expose the firm to more structured and well-organized competitors.
The limitations are those relative to the use of a single case.
Succession is a delicate process that needs to be well prepared and executed without any haste. It involves retaining the firm’s strengths, such as the social capital that the family has patiently amassed. But it also represents an opportunity to review the firm’s practices and to introduce a good dose of innovation.
The case provides a vivid illustration of what makes family firms so distinctive. Theoretical concepts and empirical findings from the literature are put together in a single consistent picture.
Fendri, C. and Nguyen, P. (2019), "Secrets of succession: how one family business reached the ninth generation", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 40 No. 5, pp. 12-20. https://doi.org/10.1108/JBS-08-2018-0130Download as .RIS
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