Reviewing Family Firm Succession Literature with a Social Exchange Perspective

[We’re pleased to welcome Joshua Daspit of Mississippi State University. Dr. Daspit recently published an article in Family Business Review with co-authors James J. Chrisman, Daniel T. Holt, and Rebbeca G. Long of Mississippi State University, entitled “Examining Family Firm Succession from a Social Exchange Perspective: A Multi-Phase, Multi-Stakeholder Review.”]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

Family firms represent a vast majority of firms in the United States and across the world, and a successful succession process is vital for the family firm to endure across generations.   Despite the importance of succession, however, the majority of familyFBR_C1_revised authors color.indd firms will not survive their first transition of power, making succession one of the most critical issues for the family firm. The study of succession is essential to the long-term succession and generation of socioemotional wealth. Therefore, to take an account of what we know as researchers and what we need to know to advance the field, we reviewed the current state of family firm succession research.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

To examine the status of research as it relates to the succession process in family firms, we examined research across three phases of succession (ground rules and first steps, development of the successor, and transition of power). Further, we used a social exchange perspective to examine how various relationships within the family firm affect the phases of succession. Specifically, we examined relational exchanges (a) between incumbent and successor, (b) within the family boundary, and (c) across the family boundary. In all, we examine the nature of each type of exchange within each phase of succession.

Our investigation notes that the majority of research on family firm succession examines exchanges within the family boundary in the first phase of succession (ground rules and first steps). Interestingly, we found no primary research contributions that examine exchange across the family boundary within phase two (development of the successor) and phase three (transition of power) of the succession process. This insight suggest that more research is needed to examine how the relationships among family members and nonfamily members (or other nonfamily stakeholders like suppliers, advisors, etc.) affect the later phases of the succession process within the family firm.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

The purpose of this manuscript is to provide a comprehensive review of family firm succession literature. We reviewed contributions from 34 journals and found 88 articles that quantitatively examined succession. Using a social exchange perspective, we sorted the contributions according to the primary nature of exchange examined and the primary phase of succession noted. For each level of exchange across each phase of succession, we highlighted insights gained from our review of the literature, and we proposed future extensions needed to advance the field. Overall, this article may be helpful for researchers and managers interested in understanding more about the nature of succession within the family firm.

You can read “Examining Family Firm Succession from a Social Exchange Perspective: A Multi-Phase, Multi-Stakeholder Review” from Family Business Review free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know more about the latest research from Family Business ReviewClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

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You can also listen to Dr. Daspit and Dr. Chrisman speak about “Examining Family Firm Succession from a Social Exchange Perspective: A Multi-Phase, Multi-Stakeholder Review” in a new Family Business Review podcast, which you can listen to here, or download here. Want to hear more? Click here to browse more podcasts from Family Business Review and here to subscribe to the SAGE Management and Business podcast channel on iTunes.


Josh DaspitJoshua J. Daspit is an Assistant Professor of Management at Mississippi State University. His research interests include examining firm capabilities and innovation with a primary focus on absorptive capacity and family business. Prior to joining academia, he worked as a senior consultant for an international consulting firm and served as Director of Community Affairs for a member of Congress.

Daniel T. Holt

Daniel T. Holt is an Associate Professor of Management in the College of Business at Mississippi State University. He received his PhD in management from Auburn University. Prior to joining the faculty at Mississippi State University, he served in the U.S. Air Force, serving as an engineer in Central America, Asia, and Middle East. Daniel’s research interests include family business, entrepreneurship, measurement methods, and organizational change.

James J. ChrismanJames J. Chrisman is the Julia Bennett Rouse Professor of Management, Head of the Department of Management and Information Systems, and Director of the Center of Family Enterprise Research at Mississippi State University. He also holds a joint appointment as Senior Research Fellow with the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise at the University of Alberta, School of Business.

Rebecca G. Long

Rebecca G. Long (PhD, Louisiana State University) is a Professor of Management andAssociate Dean of the Graduate School at Mississippi State University. She serves on the editorial review board of Family Business Review and her research has appeared in academic journals such as Organizational Research Methods, Journal of Management, Human Relations, Academy of Management Journal, Business Ethics Quarterly and Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice. Her research interests revolve around social exchange and the development of social capital within entrepreneurial and family firms.


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