Should I Stay or Should I ‘Found’? Insights on Venturing Motives and Venturing Types in the Family Business Context

silhouettes of adults under magnifying glass
Insights from the research described here offer a fine-grained understanding of why and how owning-families and their members pursue entrepreneurial activities both within and across generations through the establishment of new ventures. (Image: Geralt/Pixabay)

As family business researchers, we often meet members of business-owning families at conferences or company visits and everybody loves the unique stories they share with us. For example, these comprise exciting anecdotes and fascinating insights on the histories of their family firms, some of which are passed on from generation to generation. In fact, we are often amazed to see family members talking not only about their family firms, but rather, and not seldom with much greater passion, about their own entrepreneurial endeavors offside their family firms. We often hear that family members even leave their safe haven in the family firm in favor of a start-up adventure. This might be hard for some people to understand. In an effort to do so, we discovered that prior research has mainly focused on analyzing entrepreneurship in the family business context as a formal, top-down firm-level activity. To follow up on our notion that entrepreneurial activities in business-owning families may also be initiated “autonomously” as a bottom-up process by individual family members, we have started this research.

Our Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice article, “Venturing Motives and Venturing Types in Entrepreneurial Families: A Corporate Entrepreneurship Perspective,” provides answers to the research questions why members of business-owning families engage in the creation of new ventures and how the motives driving entrepreneurial activity relate to the resulting family venture type.

headshots of Riar, Wiedeler, Kammerlander and Kellermans
Clockwise from top left: Frederik J. Riar, assistant professor in the Institute for Organization and Personnel at Universität Bern; Conrad Wiedeler, doctoral student at the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group, WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management; Nadine Kammerlander, professor at the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group, WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management; and Franz W. Kellermanns of the Beiseim School and the Department of Management at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Drawing on 63 interviews with members of business-owning families involved in 39 distinct family venturing cases, we identified a number of venturing motives unique to the family business context that had not been discussed in prior research yet, for example

  • Preserving the entrepreneurial mindset
  • Sustaining family harmony
  • Finding family fit
  • Qualifying as successor
  • Facilitating succession
  • Emancipation from the family

These family-related motives lead to heterogeneous family venture types, for example:

  • Preserver
  • Innovator
  • Conqueror
  • Benefactor
  • Explorer
  • Autonomous investor

In our article, we discuss how the specific venturing motives are associated with venture types, positioned either inside or outside an existing family firm. We also explore how family support directly or via the family firm, emotional attachment, and transgenerational intention varied among the venture types. Overall, the insights of our research contribute to a better and more fine-grained understanding of why and how owning-families and their members pursue entrepreneurial activities both within (horizontally) and across (vertically) generations through the establishment of new ventures.

We believe that the intersection of family business and entrepreneurship is a fascinating research field. Therefore, future researchers may consider building upon our work to continue investigating family venturing types. For example, it may be worthwhile to study whether and how the family venture types we identified change over time. Moreover, we encourage future scholars to study family venturing teams, such as team compositions and the implications for different relationships among members on new venture outcomes, in more detail. For example, in our paper we find that some family ventures were co-founded by non-family members like friends or former classmates. Building theories on the various ways family and non-family team members work together and shape new venture outcomes related to corporate strategies, survival, and performances may be potential directions for future research.

Overall, we hope that our Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice article opens up manifold new promising research endeavors. Please get in touch with us if you have any questions.

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Frederik J. Riar, Conrad Wiedeler, Nadine Kammerlander, and Franz W. Kellermanns

Frederik J. Riar is at the Institute for Organization and Personnel at Universität Bern; Conrad Wiedeler is at the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group, WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management; Nadine Kammerlander is at the Beisheim School; and Franz W. Kellermanns is at the Beisheim School the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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