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Building family business identity through transgenerational narratives

Maria Jose Parada (ESADE Business School, Barcelona, Spain)
Alexandra Dawson (Department of Management, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 8 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to understand how family businesses (FBs) build their collective identity through transgenerational narratives. The authors examine the processes through which organizational meanings are socially constructed through narratives about individuals who are closely linked to the organizations (and their family).


Based on qualitative research, the authors study a 180-year old Spanish Pharmaceutical FB. Using longitudinal data, the authors analyze the narratives of six family members and two non-family executives. The authors use open-ended questions to allow interviewees to elaborate their own stories, following previous studies using extended narratives that leave the stage to the narrator.


Findings based on the stories of the eight interviewees (voice) suggest that the FB identity was initiated by the founder’s way to grow the business (fictionality). In turn the family shaped the identity of the FB, being reshaped by the stories arising from next generations’ entry into the business (reflexivity). While the FB identity reflects that of the owners, this identity is enduring but dynamic (temporality), not only shaped by the business family behind, but also conditioned by the environment.


The authors contribute to the growing literature adopting a narrative method to study phenomena in FBs. Thanks to the richness of the empirical material, a narrative method is particularly suited – and novel – for understanding collective identity, a crucial organizational resource that is closely linked to leadership in the FB.



This paper forms part of a special section. The rhetoric and narratives in management research.


Parada, M.J. and Dawson, A. (2017), "Building family business identity through transgenerational narratives", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 30 No. 3, pp. 344-356.



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