Research Briefs: Latest FBR Research for Practitioners

Good research never goes out of style. So this month, we reach back in time to bring you Executive Summaries from editions of Family Business Review past from Karen Vinton who was more than game to rise to the challenge. And although this trio of recaps harks back from the March 2012 issue of FBR–when FBR first began the Executive Summary initiative, some of the articles originally ran in 2011. To bend your mind even further, Summary 3 reviews three books that should be on all practitioners’ “must-read” list—thoughtfully summed up by Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Frank Hoy. It’s like layers of an onion, isn’t it?

As usual, I hope these summaries trigger your impulse to excavate further into the areas of research that interest you most. And as always, you can also download the current FBR issue and archived issues online.

Here are today’s recaps:

SUMMARY 1: “Charting the Future of Family Business Research: Perspectives From the Field” 
by Reginald Litz, Allison Pearson, and Shanan Litchfield

This article uses Henry Mintzberg’s “seven ways of looking at things” (seeing ahead, seeing behind, seeing above, seeing below, seeing beside, seeing beyond, and seeing it through) to examine the family business research field. The authors studied numerous review articles and conducted a survey of 83 family business scholars. The authors conclude that:

“the field will need to develop and innovate by expanding its conceptual boundaries to more deliberately include the family, enlarge its temporal boundaries to more reflectively appreciate the past, open its international boundaries to welcome findings from a growing array of international and ethnic contexts, and enrich its inherent complexity to appreciate works that present novel variables and engage in increasingly diverse set of topics (p. 30).”

All of which will ultimately help practitioners work more effectively with their clients, because the more that is learned about family businesses through research, the more practitioners will be able to help those businesses grow and prosper.

Additionally, the authors recommend that the support to accomplish these goals can come from family business centers. And here is another way practitioners can help. If you are involved in a family business center, either as a sponsor or participant, encourage your center to get involved in supporting research. If you have the chance to talk with researchers, talk to them about the challenges you face in your practice that might be interesting research topics. You can also encourage your clients to participate in research projects. The collaboration between researchers and practitioners is critical to family business success.

To link to the study, click here.

SUMMARY 2: “The Landscape of Family Business Outcomes: A Summary and Numerical Taxonomy of Dependent Variables”
by Andy Yu, G. T. Lumpkin, Ritch Sorenson, and Keith Brigham

As a result of this study, the authors make a strong recommendation that we should “know more about business-owning families, their motivations, and ways they govern their enterprises to develop business success so as to accomplish family vision and goals” (pp. 47-48). This conclusion is a result of a study of 257 empirical family business studies published between 1998 and 2009 which produced an astounding total of 327 outcome/dependent variables. Using these 327 outcome/dependent variables, the authors used four consecutive studies to analyze, refine, and develop a landscape of family business outcome/dependent variables which formed these seven clusters:

  • Performance
  • Strategy
  • Social and Economic Impact
  • Governance
  • Succession
  • Family Dynamics
  • Family Business Roles

An interesting feature of this study was the authors’ use of both family business owners and family business advisors to identify the variables that most distinguished the family business domain and the variables that were missing in the current research. Family outcomes and noneconomic performance were the areas mentioned most frequently by these experts. The complexity and uniqueness of the “business family” is reinforced by this study.

To link to the study, click here.

 SUMMARY 3: “March 2012 Book Review” 
by Frank Hoy

Frank Hoy selects three seminal books from the field of family business and examines the roles these books have played in advancing knowledge.

Every practitioner should read these three books and have them on her/his bookshelf:

  • Keeping the Family Business Healthy: How to Plan for Continuing Growth, Profitability, and Family Leadership, by John L. Ward. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. 308 pp. Hardcover. Originally published in 1987 by Jossey-Bass.
  • Generation to Generation: Life Cycles of the Family Business, by Kelin A. Gersick, John A. Davis, Marion McCollom Hampton, and Ivan Lansberg. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1997. 302 pp. Hardcover.
  • Managing for the Long Run: Lessons in Competitive Advantage from Great Family Businesses, by Danny Miller and Isabelle Le Breton-Miller. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2005. 310 pp. Hardcover.

These books are useful to any consulting practice and can be referred to clients and to new practitioners in the field. For example, John Ward’s book is particularly useful in helping practitioners and clients reframe what is learned in business school about strategic planning into a way of working with and thinking about strategic planning in the family business. The expansion of the Three Circle Model to a Developmental Model by Gersick, et. al., helps multi-generational family firms understand the challenges of transitions. Miller and Le Breton-Miller articulate the competitive advantages of family controlled businesses and can help practitioners and clients take a new (and more appreciative) look at how they do business.

Frank Hoy not only reviews the books but interviews the authors. The reflective responses he received from the authors during personal interviews are interesting and can be found throughout the article. However, the last section in this review, beginning on page 120, is particularly thought-provoking. All of the authors recognize and comment on the progress of the field and the role practitioners and family businesses play in that progress.
To link to the study, click here.For complete issues as well as the latest Online First articles, visit the FBR Sage website here. FFI members receive complimentary subscription to FBR. If you need assistance accessing your account please contact [email protected].

About the Contributor

Karen L. Vinton Ph.D. is a 1999 Barbara Hollander Award winner and Professor Emeritus of Business at the College of Business at Montana State University, where she founded theUniversity’s Family Business Program. An FFI Fellow, she has served on its Board of Directorsand chaired the Body of Knowledge committee. From 1997 through 2011, Vinton served on theeditorial board of the Family Business Review, and is the current assistant editor. Beforeretiring, Vinton served as director for her own family’s business (negotiating its eventual sale)and had her own family business consulting practice, Vinton Consulting Services. Karen can bereached at [email protected].

Be sure to look for The Practitioner: Wednesday Edition next week for an article by Kirby Rosblock entitled: “Recent Findings on Sustaining the Family Enterprise”

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Yours in Practice,

The Practitioner


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