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The passion for creating, sharing, and using management knowledge of Luis R. Gomez-Mejia
Article Type: A life in research From: Management Research: The Journal of the Iberoamerican Academy of Management, Volume 9, Issue 2
Luis R. Gómez-Mejía (LGM) is not only a well recognized name in the area of industrial relations or human resource management but he is also known in many other disciplines in the area of management and in academic environments in business administration around the world. His accomplishments, experiences and awards include being the co-founder of the Iberoamerican Academy of Management; publishing profusely in the main journals of the Academy of Management and the recognition of having coined several terms and theories. The list of honors and awards includes having received the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by Universidad Carlos III in Madrid, Spain; numerous research awards; and academic awards that are only granted to the few selected people that have achieved the recognition and admiration of their colleagues in academia. Many of us in the field of management know him for his candid opinions and his great contributions to many fields that enhance the quality of knowledge that is produced and shared by academics, students, and professionals. His books have been translated to many languages and are based on the understanding of the needs of students and practitioners to translate, as he says in this interview:
[…] all this academic jargon and this complex esoteric stuff and say it in a way that can be useful to people and that can be understood in an intuitively meaningful manner.
Luis transmits his energy to all member of the management community by approaching present and future in different management fields with in-depth analysis and rigor by producing new knowledge; shares it through intense collaboration with colleagues and publication of articles, books, and monographs; and uses it by applying the principles he extracts from research in the daily activities of academic life.
LGM was interviewed by Santiago Ibarreche (SI). SI is a Professor of Management at the College of Business Administration at The University of Texas at El Paso; he has been Director of the Center for Hispanic Entrepreneurship at the same university and has been professor at different universities in Mexico and the USA and is also consultant in different areas of management. He holds a PhD in Management from the University of Colorado.
SI: Good afternoon. Let us begin the conversation by saying that one of the things that came across when we interviewed Bob Hoskisson last year was that many people were not only interested in the fields of research, but in their personal life. Getting to know a little bit about you and I think that it became a very important part of the final piece at the end.
SI: For example, one of the questions is what motivated you to become an academician?
LGM: Well, I went to school in Santo Domingo, I got my high school degree there, and I studied with the “Jesuits” at the “Loyola School”. And I guess that is where my interest began; there were really a lot of smart people there. A lot of people came from the “Colegio de Belén”, in Havana which later became a military compound when Castro took it over. And so there were some really brilliant people who were good scholars, interested in research. So even back then I was doing some research projects, one of which was analyzing data on Dominican family firms. I was very interested in philosophy, epistemology and theology, unusual things for a teenager. Some of the great Jesuits I met at the time included Vicente Rodríguez, Carlos Rodríguez, De La Fuente, Chuco del Villar, Mario Suarez, Nelson García, Pedro Cartaya, among many other. The school had an “Academia de Oratoria” where we analyzed classical speeches throughout history and examine the persuasive techniques used, as well as “A Journalism Academy” where we practiced a lot of writing. So I worked very closely with some of those people at an early age. And even after 40 or 50 years, I still, believe it or not, apply some of the things I learned back then. Some of those professors are still alive and I have kept contact with them over the years. In fact I have recently spent time with Pedro Cartaya and Nelson Garcia at Colegio de Belén in Miami and with Chuco del Villar in the Jesuit School in Mendoza, Argentina.
SI: As we say in Spanish: “Lo que bien se aprende nunca se olvida”.
LGM: Exactly. I learned early on how to persuade people, how to develop a good argument, how to anticipate objections from the audience and the readers. And believe it or not, even now when I write a paper for the Academy of Management Journal, or any academic paper for a top-tier journal, I still go back and remember what I learned more than 40 years ago, such as for example, how to grasp the attention of the reader, how to create a good story, how to anticipate the objections of the audience and such. Most of what we do in academia is really to persuade other people because there are many ways that you can look at the same issue. So your job as a scholar is to persuade other people that your perspective makes sense, that the logic is compelling and plausible, that you have something interesting to say that should be read. So that is how my interest in research aroused. My family left the Dominican Republic after the revolution of 1965, and we actually left almost like exiles to Miami. So we left everything behind, and started a new life from scratch in Miami. I had to work very hard from the start, holding multiple jobs. I first went to Miami Dade Union College, which was the closest thing to our house. After I was able to save some money I decided to change locations completely and explore new worlds. So I chose Minnesota, which was as different as you could get from Miami. Part of the reason for going to Minnesota is that in Miami I did not have a chance to speak English at all. We lived in the “Sajuecera” (southwest part of Miami) which was an “all Spanish” community, mostly recently emigrated Cuban exiles. Even in the University, in Miami Dade, many of the professors were Cubans, or native Spanish speakers. Another reason for going to Minnesota is that Walter Heller was in the Economics Faculty; he was Head of the Economics Council under President Kennedy and very renown in macroeconomic policy. At the University of Minnesota I got my bachelor’s in Economics and Sociology. Then I received my masters there in human resource management as I wanted to find a more applied area than economics. Upon receiving my masters I went to work for the City of Minneapolis but I could not stand to work in a government bureaucracy so in spite of receiving a decent salary, good benefits, and perfect job security I left the City of Minneapolis’ job and went to work for Control Data Corporation (CDC).
SI: Large computer company.
LGM: Yes, CDC was the second largest computer company after IBM, with 62,000 employees. I spent almost six years working there as an internal consultant and personnel administrator. Early on in CDC, while maintaining a crazy schedule, I applied and was accepted to the PhD program in human resource management. Back in those days you could actually attend the University part-time and get a PhD. So I did that, getting my coursework piecemeal until finally completing the doctorate. My doctoral thesis was actually in international management, using data from the international branches of CDC (CDC operated in more than 40 countries at the time). Upon completing my PhD I thought that maybe I should try academia, to see what it was like. Control Data was getting into financial troubles, I saw the dark horizon for the company, and I decided to be proactive and try academia. I had already published several papers while working full time at CDC; I did it as a hobby. Two of those papers were in the Academy of Management Journal (Gómez-Mejia et al., 1982; Milkovich and Gómez-Mejia, 1976). I was very surprised actually that universities were interested in hiring me but apparently the published papers carried some weight. The University of Florida in Gainesville was one of those. Because my family was still in Florida I decided to return to Florida, after 12 years in Minnesota. I still recall vividly the first day at the University of Florida, sitting in the office, telling myself: what do I do now? I felt I had all this free time in my hands and no immediate pressures! I was just so used to working in a corporation where you are always putting out fires.
SI: There is a deadline always.
LGM: Always a deadline […] There is always urgency, so, I never forget that, sitting in the office wondering what I would do with all the time I had in my hands. I was teaching two classes, but they only occupied six hours a week!!. Then projects began to grow right and left so life became more hectic than ever. I had the fortune of working with people like Professor Henry Tosi, who was there in Florida at the time, and from him I learned everything there was to know about research, particularly how to write theory.
SI: Was he in Gainesville?
LGM: In Gainesville. Yes, he was in Florida, in Gainesville. So then I fell in love with academia, and frankly, I decided I would never, ever go back to corporate life.
SI: It was kind of curious or serendipitous if you want, but I visited University of Florida in 1981.
LGM: No kidding! (Laughter).
SI: So, as you can see, I was at that time working for a Think Tank in Mexico, and we wanted to have post-doctoral programs available to the researches there, and of course, you know in 1982, the government expropriated the banks, and that is history from thereafter. But that is one of the things that happen; many times the way you get into the different professions is serendipitous.
LGM: Absolutely, academia is not what I had in mind when I got a PhD but once I had a taste of academia I loved it, to have the freedom to do what I wanted to do, and to be able to write and think, “to get paid to think” so to speak. I spent five years in Florida, and as often happen to assistant professors other horizons open up so I took a job in Colorado for three years. There I had the fortune of hiring some good people like David Balkin and Julio De Castro.
SI: I graduated there in 1979.
LGM: That is right! Actually when Julio De Castro, now the President of the Iberoamerican Academy, arrived in Colorado I moved to Arizona State. In a strange twist of fate the Associate Dean from Florida, John Kraft, became Dean at Arizona State and he asked me if I wanted to go to Phoenix. It was a great opportunity with a research professorship, and I ended up taking the job and spent 20 years at ASU. There I had the great fortune of working with colleagues in many different areas. One thing I loved about ASU was its disciplinary diversity. There were faculty and doctoral students in strategy, in production operations, international businesses, human resources, and organizational behavior, etc. Being there allowed me to amplify the scope of my research. I worked on a variety of projects leading to publications in many management areas including executive compensation, international management, corporate governance, supply chain management and the like. Then the opportunity opened up at Texas A&M. Here I have done a lot of research on entrepreneurship and family firm. At Texas A&M my position is in entrepreneurship, so I have done a lot of work in family businesses. It is great to have this broad field of vision and that comes from having colleagues with diverse backgrounds to discuss research questions and thus be exposed to different paradigms.
SI: Do you think that in many ways, we are now creating our doctoral students to be extremely specialized?
LGM: I do think it is an issue; on the other hand, being narrowly focused is more comfortable for many people. For me it is boring. But I realize that being eclectic is not the easiest thing to do. You have to be capable of doing this.
SI: Yes, of crossing over […]
LGM: Of crossing over. I do think frankly it is a lot more enjoyable.
SI: Oh Yes! That has been my case.
LGM: Exactly, you keep on learning and you get to know new colleagues […]
SI: At the same time, I think that one of the advantages (and you have done that in the Iberoamerican), is the fact that by crossing fields, you also can transfer some of the knowledge that you created in one field to another field.
SI: This can be completely unknown.
LGM: And it can also open opportunities for new publications, because a lot of the publications that I have done for example are basically connecting two different fields; like connecting things from supply chain management with behavioral theory, for instance.
SI: Or in a family business […]
LGM: Or in the family business precisely, taking behavioral theory and applying it to family business.
SI: The SEW?
LGM: That is right, the Socio Emotional Wealth construct or SEW, which essentially applies the behavioral agency model to the special case of family firms. By integrating different things, you can create some synergies. So you are right, I think that when you train people to be so narrow creativity tends to suffer.
SI: When you are narrowly trained, you look only at things through a narrow optic, although there are other facts.
LGM: Right. You know, I honestly think that if you are going to be productive in your career you eventually have to break through your narrow niche. Being narrow may be instrumental when you are starting out because you can efficiently use one hammer to do much of your research, but this can only go so far and then you need to broaden your interests if you are going to be productive in research during your life time.
SI: Yes, yes. And it is one of the things that are relevant to this type of interview because you want to have a whole life in research, you cannot be narrow focused.
LGM: Exactly! Absolutely! Yes, I totally agree with that.
SI: What do you think the next fields in research will be? Or how do you see the management field expanding? Because one of the things that I have seen is that many people are afraid for example of crossing disciplines. I have seen that in newly graduated PhDs. They are afraid of going to another field, or just even touching outside what is management. I have now one doctoral student, she has done quite a bit in entrepreneurship with immigration. And one of the things that I have told her is well […] go to the anthropology […] go to the sociology […].
LGM: That is exactly right. That is what I do too. I go to the basic disciplines in the social sciences such as economics, sociology, psychology and anthropology. But I understand that this is not always easy and that it may take you out of your comfort zone.
SI: I do not think it is that secure. Do you think it is secure?
LGM: To the extent that some journals may prefer narrow pieces, in that respect you can say it is less secure to follow a broader approach to research.
SI: But I think that the main journals, the ones that really have made an impact, most of them are very eclectic.
LGM: Absolutely, yes, no question about it. If you want to go, for example, to Administrative Science Quarterly (ASQ), clearly it would benefit you if you can be eclectic. So I totally agree with you. At the same time, however, it is extremely difficult to get into those journals, precisely because they are more eclectic.
SI: What would be your advice for newly graduated PhDs?
LGM: My main advice is that you have to be pragmatic. The first thing to do is to find the right colleagues to work with. This is the most fundamental issue in becoming successful.
SI: And I have seen your name with some of my friends repeated in every article; the same thing happens with most authors.
LGM: Exactly and I have been very fortunate to find those people. I tell my doctoral student that having a successful research program is like any business, you do not succeed just by yourself most of the time; you have to partner with other people. Using a small business metaphor, if you hire the wrong people into the business, you are going to fail. So once again from a very pragmatic perspective finding the right team of colleagues is essential to do well in research and work with. You need to consider the complementarities among the team members so that each person brings something unique to the research enterprise (methodological skills, writing skills, competence in particular areas and such).
SI: Yes, what is it that you are lacking that they have, and can contribute with.
LGM: Precisely. For instance, I personally like to write, to weave the story of the paper. I am not really a data-crunching person. I have done this in the past but this is not my strong suit. Yet I have worked with some colleagues who are excellent methodologists. And thus we develop some synergies in how we work together.
SI: Those are the things where we are very similar.
LGM: It is a matter of uncovering those synergies, finding colleagues who can complement you. As another example of what I mean, for most people in the Iberoamerican countries English is a second language, so finding colleagues to work with, whose native language is English may represent a critical complementarity.
LGM: Ideally some of the co-authors should be native English speakers, because no matter how well you know the language, you are still going to have a handicap. At the very least the language handicap makes the publishing endeavor much more difficult and one way to overcome this is to work with people who can help you in meeting this language challenge.
SI: Yes, well it is your second language.
LGM: It is your second language; it is going to be a handicap. So, again, it is necessary to find a colleague which has English as first language or who has a lot of experience writing in the English language. Like it or not, this is a critical hurdle in all of the business journals that are highly ranked. Another advice I would give is to keep your mind open, in terms of research agendas you want to pursue in the future. Develop five-year plans of the kinds of things you know you want to do. Some things in life happen fortuitously, just by luck, by chance, but this is seldom the case in research. You need to plan ahead because to have an empirical paper ready for a good journal can easily take five years or more. And if you are working on multiple papers then the complexity goes up exponentially. Another way to deal with the complexity goes back to a point I mentioned earlier, and that is by having a good research team.
SI: Yes! Even outside your main discipline.
LGM: Even outside your main discipline, exactly. Like I did not know anything of supply chain management but recently we had a paper published in Decision Sciences. In that paper, we linked the behavioral agency model that I developed with some strategy colleagues and applied it to a supply chain context with some colleagues with a supply chain background. At one time, I even worked with some people in engineering and had a paper in IEEE Transactions, which is considered as top tier in engineering. I have never taken a course in engineering. I have never taken a course in strategy. I have never taken a course in entrepreneurship or family business. I have never taken a course in supply chain management. Yet a lot of my work ended up in these diverse areas.
SI: Oh yes, in strategy.
LGM: You need to have some plan, like a five-year plan on the kinds of things you want to do, keep an open mind. A lot of my ideas just come from a lunch discussion, or having a beer with a colleague, that kind of thing.
SI: The famous “back of the napkin type”
LGM: Absolutely, that is right, that is right. Many projects did start on the back of a napkin and I still have some of those.
SI: Yes, like Southwest started.
LGM: Exactly. You meet people from other fields and different backgrounds and see how you can incorporate their ideas. Informal interactions can be very fruitful for this sort of thing.
SI: Do you think that given the present level of competition […] I do not know if it is competition or if it is even sometimes adversarial types of systems that we have, in terms of promotion and in terms of other type of things, that are acting in many times against the goodness of the profession, putting too much pressure?
LGM: Sure. I think the pressure works against creativity. It is difficult to be creative when you are under a lot of pressure, because then you become totally obsessed with meeting certain criteria, and often this leads into being very narrow. If you have three years, let us say to publish five papers then it is understandable that you will do everything possible to meet that target. Creativity becomes a secondary issue at best; collegiality can also suffer by generating too much competition. Unfortunately this has become a way of life in most universities so you need to adapt to it. But being narrowly focused only works in the short term; I think most scholars either broaden their horizon or they become bored and quit doing research.
SI: And I think that when you look at the schools that have been able to produce good researchers […] in many ways, they do not have that type of pressure, or they might have it for the younger faculty, but once you get to a certain level of tenure, full professorship or things like that, it becomes much more available and simple.
LGM: That is true. Each school also has a different culture. For instance, at A&M there is a lot of collaborative research. Other schools may have a different set of cultural norms and might even push you in the direction of single papers. I do think the latter is a mistake because very few papers are now published that are single authored.
SI: Yes well, even in your books for example […] it is very curious to see that you always have to have co-authors […]
LGM: Yes, that is the culture here; the culture here is to emphasize collaborative work. You are never criticized for working with other people.
SI: Yes, and here, in many ways […] you have some institutions that pay a lot of lip service to collaboration. But really, it is how many “sole” authorship papers (laughter). That is how you have promotion you know? So it is kind of a contradictory statement when you talk about collaboration but oh! Oh! If you do not have “solo” authorship articles, forget it, you are never going to be promoted; you are more like “ohm” […]
LGM: They devalue your work because you got more authors. Yes, I think Texas A&M is a good example, and I know Michigan State is another good example of the opposite view. And this is probably true of most of the good universities these days. The acceptance rate in top-tier journals now hover around five percent. A journal editor of one of the top-tier journals in management recently told me that he only accepted one paper out of 27. He also told me that out of every 27 papers submitted there were ten that were very good papers, but he could only accept one of those. So you are talking about one paper out of ten among excellent papers, or one in 27 of all papers that are submitted. With that kind of competition, it is unfair to require people to have top-tier publications in the best journals. For low-tier journals, it is a different matter perhaps (because acceptance rate is much higher and in some internet journals it is probably 100 percent) but you cannot have your cake and eat it at the same time! (Laughter).
SI: And many times it is a very subjective type of thing […]
LGM: Of course, it has to be subjective. When you have to pick one out of ten excellent papers to be published in the journal part of the decision becomes arbitrary even when editors and reviewers have the best intentions in mind.
SI: Yes, I mean it is one of those things that you say “well it might be because it’s something that I can relate to […] something that I know about […] something that seems challenging[…]” (Laughter) do not know […] original […]
LGM: How to magically figure it out […] (Laughter). Once again this is why research teams are becoming common. You just do not find much sole authorship in those journals.
SI: Play to your strengths, that is one of the things that I see that you have done in many of the papers, many of the collaborations; talking to some of your collaborators that is what they said, you know, “he’s very good in writing” for example, “he’s very good in putting the model conceptually together”. I think that that is part of what has made you a very good teammate for other people.
LGM: I just enjoy working with other people. It is exciting when you can share ideas and learn from each other. Otherwise research can be very dry and an isolating activity, which would be almost depressing (at least for me).
SI: Yes! And that is one of the things that many times are very difficult. Specially, from people that have never been in the industry. I think that becomes a big problem also.
LGM: And that is also a good observation. In industry you have to compromise and get along with other people.
SI: And if you do not have compromise, well […] then it becomes a problem.
LGM: It becomes a big problem. People who think they have all the answers and do not listen to what others may have to contribute seldom do well in industry and the same is true in academia, even if you are very bright.
SI: Let us switch gears a little bit here. One of the themes that came with the people that I talk constantly is […] Why the Iberoamerican first? And second, do you see a role for Hispanics in the Iberoamerican?
LGM: You mean Hispanics in the USA?
SI: Yes. Against working together with the rest of the Iberoamerican?
LGM: Yes. That is precisely one of the original goals of the Iberoamerican Academy, to connect researchers who do share some common experiences and cultural traits. In my personal opinion while there are major differences across different countries and regions of different countries, you still find some commonality in language, humor, problems in publishing their research, mentality and the like. Furthermore, no matter if they are Hispanics in the USA or elsewhere, you still get a distinct (and I would say very real) sensation of being in the minority when it comes to major Academic meetings. There are many smart people in this field who share similar concerns in all of the countries I have travelled (Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Spain, etc.) as well as Hispanics in American institutions (such as you and I and the current Iberoamerican Academy President Julio De Castro).
SI: Extremely brilliant, some of them […]
LGM: Even in Spain, which is part of the European Union, when I began to work there in the mid-1990s, there were very few academics in management tied to the mainstream networks. That is when the idea of launching the Iberoamerican Academy started, in combination with Hispanics in American universities and several scholars from Latin America. In this endeavor, I would like to recognize the hard work of Professor Isabel Gutierrez from Carlos III in Madrid, who devoted countless hours to the association in the beginning and organized the first major international conference.
Our thought was to bring management scholars that shared a common Iberoamerican background together who can support each other and who can help each other out, and so we can establish those networks. In addition to Isabel Gutierrez at Carlos III in Madrid the association has moved forward thanks to the hard work of many people in Spain/Portugal, Latin America and the USA.
SI: Yes, and one of the things that is curious is, for example, the case that I became member of the Academy because of Carlos Alcérreca, who organized the second international Iberoamerican Conference at ITAM in Mexico City. Carlos and I were classmates at Colorado, so when the first meeting that they […] the second meeting that was in Mexico City, he sent me the advertising just to see if somebody was interested in going and I presented one of several papers specifically in what you were talking […] humor (Laughter).
LGM: Well there you got it! Seriously, that is what the Iberoamerican Academy is all about, just connecting people who otherwise would have not met each other (such as you and I) and who share common interests in the management field.
SI: Yes, the people of Sao Paulo.
LGM: The people of Sao Paulo, the people at Getulio Vargas, Yes, all these people, I mean that is how all the stuff came about. And so, it is a way to provide a forum or a mechanism to tie together, to link together all these people who, in my opinion anyway, do share commonalities that you do not share with North Americans. Right? And it is hard to define, but […]
SI: Yes. And at the same time there is a breach, a little bit, of those who have immigrated to the USA that can make the transition between one and another culture.
LGM: Precisely, as a matter of fact that is something else that Isabel Gutierrez and I agreed totally in the beginning. This is not supposed to be a ghetto, that is not good. But we quickly realized most Universities will have at least one person, who was interested in participating in the association.
SI: Yes, some common interest. And even one of the things that you have seen is that the prevalence now that you talk about being the largest Hispanic, the largest minority and all those type of things […]
LGM: Yes, 50 some million and it is one of those things that you said: “Well! We should have a much more active participation in all fields, not just in the academic field, but also in the political and social fields, that what you have now, and I think that that is […] As you know we get 80-100 scholars that participate each year in our joint program with the Academy of Management; this did not exist or could not occur before the Iberoamerican Academy was created.”
SI: Yes, yes, this year I am the PDWs’ person (Laughter).
LGM: Hmmm […] I mean I get e-mails, as you may too, but I mean I get e-mails everyday from someone that I have never, perhaps, I mean I do not remember if I have met them or not before personally […]
SI: But said: “Well […] we met in the Academy’s meeting two years ago, or when you […]”
LGM: Exactly. So this commonality is hard to define, but clearly it helps all of us to be connected and to find each other.
SI: Yes, they are. Let us reach a little bit.
LGM: Yes, you have to reach a little bit, yes. And as you will notice, a lot of my publications are from people from different places, Argentina, Spain, Dominican Republic, Brazil and others.
SI: And is one of the things that many people do not realize how important it is for the international system, I do not think it is just the American system, but for the international system to have a publication in one of those journals or to have some kind of research in which you are known for having had something in one of those places.
LGM: I agree.
SI: And that brings me to the next aspect of this which is bridging the theory and practice or applying theory to practice. How do you see the role of research in universities as trigger or not of new things going on in the business world?
LGM: My opinion is that there is always interaction going back and forth; much of what we do is reactive to what is happening in the business world and we try to interpret that and define what is going on; whether you talk about quality management; whether you talk about family firms; whether you talk about executive compensation; any topic you can think of. A lot of what we do is try to interpret what we see out there in the business world; at the same type we try to codify that and then we turn it back into the real world.
LGM: Sometimes more explicitly than others; clearly textbooks is one way that you can communicate all that; one way to take academic information and to reach thousands of people all over the world and have an influence in the way they think.
SI: Like it or not
LGM: For example, I have three textbooks and that is one of the things I am proud of. When you look at a list of the universities that use your books you realize how you are influencing people all over the world. In fact they are translated into Chinese, Spanish, Dutch and many languages so you realize you will have an influence. These students are usually in MBA programs and sooner or later many of those will be in the frontlines and will make a difference in the world.
SI: I think that a lot of universities put down the text books. I think you have the largest universities like Texas A&M or UT Austin that are looking for both but there are some universities that have a problem with textbooks; they think they are not serious publications and I think that it is more difficult writing textbooks.
LGM: Very difficult; very difficult; because you have to translate all this academic jargon and this complex esoteric stuff and say it in a way that can be useful to people and that can be understood in an intuitively meaningful manner. And is a very different kind of writing, totally different kind of writing.
SI: Yes. I am just finishing one (Laughter).
LGM: So you know!
SI: My first one in English […] even the other ones, the ones I had in Spanish that was always the problem, it was to put it in a level in which you do not insult the reader by saying: “Oh right! You are a dummy! But at the same time you can, as you said, translate the theoretical portions of it.”
LGM: Right. So that is one way it could happen. You know there are other ways you can have impact, such as, you know, consulting.
SI: How do you feel about consulting? Because we have had a discussion lately; my argument was, you know, if you go to chemistry, the faculty of chemistry or faculty of science have labs; and our lab in the business college is the business community. So if you do not allow for consulting, I think you are going to have a handicap.
LGM: Oh, of course, I mean that would be the dumbest thing they can possibly do. Yes, you need to do that in order to keep yourself grounded. But the thing with consulting, like anything else, it can be too much of a good thing. I mean, how do you prevent abuses? You know what I am saying?
SI: Yes; that many times people do not understand that there can be abuses.
LGM: Exactly! And there are probably political pressures, you know, people outside saying: “how can you have people be ‘double-dipping’!” (Laughter); you know what I mean? There is no other place in the public sector (or in the private sector for that matter) where you can do that. On the other hand, like you are saying, the idea that business community is our laboratory where we do a lot of the stuff is important. If you get disconnected, totally disconnected, from the business community you have a problem.
SI: And I think that is one of the things that I like about teaching graduate courses, especially executive MBAs that are aided […] that sometimes they can surprise you with some of the questions they bring to the class […]
LGM: Oh absolutely! Yes! Theoretically sophisticated too!
SI: Oh yes; because there might be their second or third degree, or they have read many times more than we had.
LGM: Oh yes. And they can challenge, you know? So, I mean I am all in favor really, I do think you have to allow consulting […] you know, somehow you need to prevent abuses. But I think some of that gets taken care of by, you know rewarding things like publications […] those kinds of things, because I do not think you can […] frankly I do not think you can publish in good journals and do consulting 40 hours a week […] you know, it is impossible.
SI: Yes, you have to have a balance […]
LGM: You have to have a balance, exactly, so […]
SI: Let me change a little bit. I imagine your routine changed in the last year, especially from being in a more or less settled down job as you were in Arizona, and now changing to the new life of things like that. Could you talk a little bit about what is stressful of changing, that affected you positively or negatively in terms of your productivity?
LGM: Well, you know moving is always a bigger disruption than you think it is. (Laughter) I mean, just changing the address is a nightmares; a lot of stuff still moves thru the mail rather than e-mail or telephone. So that is a big issue. Selling a house is another big issue, particularly in a bad market. I have a seven year old daughter so we had to find a new school for her. Then the rest of the stuff that comes with a new job like adapting to new personalities, a new secretary that you have never met before, getting a computer account and the like. Just getting a driver’s license can make you waste a whole day.
SI: But at the same time, it has a lot of rewards.
LGM: It has a lot of rewards, yes. And again, Texas A&M is one of the top-management departments in the country. I would say we are one of the top five; there are some really excellent scholars here, who are also nice, wonderful colleagues. So that was a big reward, you know.
SI: And that is why I was bringing the topic, because I know that you have written on it. And I think that that can relate also to some of what you are doing in family businesses. I think that one of the biggest problems that some of the family businesses have is how easy it is to have somebody in the family that will not be working there, or that they are not really the quality of people that you need in that business.
LGM: That is right, that is right, yes.
SI: And I think that can be a very interesting topic to see what the similarities are.
LGM: Yes. Well you know one similarity I can tell you; because I know someone that if I you stick to your family business, like as a manager, ironically you get paid less than if you were to work in another non-family business. The same thing happens in academia; if you stay in one job and one university, you know your pay is going to lag behind anyone else, by a big amount.
SI: That is exactly what happened to me (Laughter).
LGM: You paid a huge price right? It is the same with the family firm, I mean if you stay with a family firm you may have the security of being under the family umbrella, but you pay a price financially. That happens to Universities […] at least in the USA. But you know I do not know if my routine has changed that much from ASU, Arizona State […] basically I put in four hours a day doing e-mails, it is incredible […]
SI: I completely sympathize with you.
LGM: And then, I probably work around 14 hours a day.
SI: Well, you know, if you want to be as productive as you are you had to do that, you know […]
LGM: You have to set deadlines all the time to yourself.
SI: And it is one of the things that I realize with the book […]
LGM: Exactly, you have to set deadlines or you never get your book done.
SI: Yes. And that is always a very long process in that term. Let us just change a little bit […] I was very interested in reading the research statement that you sent and probably I will use some of both phrases to write the introduction to this interview, I really think it was very interesting. Can you respond a little bit on the SEW concept? And why did it come to be so important in your family enterprise research?
LGM: Well, originally I coined the term for an ASQ paper published in 2007; the idea there is that family firms are guided by a different set of utilities than no-family firms. And those utilities I call them socio-emotional wealth; what does that mean? Well that means a lot of different things, it is not easy to pinpoint it to one simple thing. It includes the pride in the business, having your name on the business, you identification with the business, your ability to appoint relatives into the business; your ability to have an image in the community that you want, the sense of dynasty that can continue through generations […]
LGM: Succession. Yes, all those things. I and my co-authors grouped them into the socio-emotional wealth construct; it is a richness that is unique to family firms, you do not find that in a no-family firm.
SI: Yes because you have things that are similar in non-family firm, like it can be tacit knowledge, but it never pays in terms of wealth.
LGM: Exactly. And the wealth that I am talking about is a very emotional, affective type of wealth. Not utilitarian in the sense of financial wealth. This may have financial repercussions too; I am not saying it does not. The good thing is that it creates a lot more commitment to the line of succession for example, which is very good.
SI: But also it limits your growth.
LGM: It also limits your growth […] precisely. So, my co-authors (Manuel Nunez, Jose Moyano and Katherine Haynes) and I coined the concept in 2007 in a research project with Olive Oil Mills in Jaen, Spain. Since then I have also done a lot of work on this with Cristina Cruz at Instituto de Empresa, Pascual Berrone at IESE and Martin Larraza at Universidad Pública de Navarra, in Spain.
SI: Yes I can see that in any kind of agricultural business.
LGM: In any kind of agricultural thing, right. Well we found that many of these firms deliberately would avoid joining the co-op even if this did not seem like a rationally economic decision. We argued that they were trying to protect the socio-emotional wealth of the family.
SI: I like the term, and I started reading some of the papers, to tell you the truth. When I read your statement I went to the library […]
SI: Really! Because I have written quite a bit in family business, but more in consulting terms and other type of terms, and Frank Hoy and Pramodita Sharma created The Family Enterprises Research Consortium.
LGM: Yes that is right.
SI: And I was an organizer for them for a couple of years and that was something that I never had discussed with them or had never seen in ETP or in Family Business Journal […] and I think it can be a very good piece to look at possibilities of joining these, or contrasting these for example with the benefits, as you said, why does it sound so irrational? Because it is emotional, I mean […] it is an affective thing, it is not rational. And it is something we forget; the majority of the businesses are family businesses.
LGM: 85-90 percent.
SI: And we still think that those are things that do not apply to big ones and even some large ones are family business. We have the Fords of the world still around.
SI: In your experience of these years, that you have been in academia what are the things that encourage you to continue in this life and what are the things that came to a point in which you said to yourself: am I really happy here?
LGM: Do you mean happy in the profession?
SI: Yes, happy in the profession; (Laughter).
LGM: I think the most difficult thing is to balance so many pieces at the same time; for example, before talking to you I taught for five hours; I taught five hours this morning and then I have several things that I have to do for the annals of the academy that are due tomorrow and I keep thinking of that (I will not take more time from you) no, no that is ok; what I am saying is that I keep thinking of that; I have to take my daughter to a dance tonight; we are in recruitment mode and we have people coming into interview; there are many things at you at once. That is the nature of this business!
SI: And sometimes the problem is that you have to regroup otherwise you become paralyzed.
LGM: That is right.
SI: And I think sometimes this is a problem with some people in academia with some personalities they tend to be so obsessed with one aspect of their career that they do not realize the need for balance.
LGM: That is right; yes, there is a life out there.
SI: There is a life that has to be enjoyed too.
LGM: One thing that I do every night is I read a novel or something that has nothing to do with management; I do that one hour every night;
SI: And that is something you would have to do otherwise you will go crazy.
SI: Who are your favorite authors outside of management?
LGM: Oh my favorite authors! Oh my God!
SI: Do you like novels?
LGM: I like some of the classics like Shakespeare.
SI: Some modern stuff?
LGM: I like Garcia Marquez.
SI: Do you like Perez Reverte?
LGM: Yes I do.
LGM: I even like some junky stuff like Robin Hook.
SI and LGM: (Laughter)
SI: I think that it also keeps you grounded in your culture.
LGM: Yes it does and you need to remember your roots.
SI: Well with this I believe we conclude. Thanks for allowing us to talk to you.
LGM: Thanks to you too! Nice talking to you!
LGM is the Benton Cocanougher Chair in Business at the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, USA.
For a full version of Robert E. Hoskisson interview, see Ibarreche and Mezquita (2010).
Instituto de Banca Y Finanzas, A. C. (IBAFIN).
One of the best known human resource management books is co-authored by Gómez-Mejia, L.R., Balkin, D.B. and Cardy, R. (2010, 6th ed.).
LGM was co-founder of the Iberoamerican Academy of Management and its President from 1998 to 2009.
Santiago IbarrecheUniversity of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas, USA
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