Academic journal article Academy of Strategic Management Journal

Familiness and Its Relationship with Performance in Mexican Family Firms

Academic journal article Academy of Strategic Management Journal

Familiness and Its Relationship with Performance in Mexican Family Firms

Article excerpt


What makes the family business unique? How is it different from a non-family business? Specialized literature has identified several unique resources that are frequently referred to as the "familiness" of the firm (Cabrera-Suarez, De Saa-Perez, & Garcia-Almeida, 2001). Since Habbershon and Williams (1999) introduced the concept of familiness, many contributions have been made (e.g. the Resource Based View or the Social Capital approach to familiness) to advance in the understanding of the essence of family businesses. We consider that the understanding of the construct of familiness and its effects on goals, behaviors and performance of family businesses is a prerequisite for theoretical progress in family business research (Hack, 2009).

Familiness does not refer to the general influence of the family on the business but it specifically refers to the answer of the next question: "how family is a family firm?" (Rutherford, Kuratko & Holt, 2008). Habbershon and Williams (1999) define familiness "as the unique bundle of resources a particular firm has because of the systems interactions between the family, its individual members, and the business" (p. 11). Chrisman, Chua, and Litz (2003) later described the concept as "resources and capabilities related to family involvement and interactions" (p. 468). Familiness is proposed as a source of competitive advantage, generating firm wealth a nd value creation. For the purposes of this work, familiness describes the positive influence of family involvement in the firm (Pearson, et al. 2008).

In a relatively short period, familiness has become a widely acknowledged and popular construct with family business researchers (Chrisman, Chua & Steier, 2005; Habbershon and Williams 1999; Moores and Craig 2005; Nordqvist, 2005; Matz and Ireland, 2013). However, the sources and types of familiness are yet to be understood (Chrisman, Chua & Steier, 2005). The construct itself--its dimensions, antecedents, and consequences--has been left unattended in the field (Sharma & Zahra, 2004) and familiness remains a somehow ambiguous concept (Moores, 2009; Zellweger et al., 2010; Pearson et al., 2008; Rutherford et al., 2008).

Sharma (2008) suggests that the fundamental task of evaluating the construct itself--its dimensions, antecedents, and consequences--has been neglected, slowing down the theory-building aspirations of the field (cf., Zahra & Sharma, 2004). Chrisman, Chua and Sharma (2005) called for research that identifies family firms' uniqueness, focusing on how the family's involvement is a root cause of their distinctiveness. Zellweger et al. (2010) sustain that familiness is a multi-dimensional construct that needs to be better understood as it can affect the competitive advantage of family firms.

Full specification of the familiness construct remains an active area of research (Pearson et al.). For our purposes, familiness can be viewed as a continuous concept ranging from firms with very high family involvement having a strong familiness resource set (i.e., many unique family firm resources) to firms with no family involvement and thus having no familiness resources. Characterizing familiness as continuous in nature rather than strictly as a dichotomy between family and nonfamily, captures the variability of familiness as a resource across family firms (Habbershon et al.). Furthermore, this characterization helps capture the overall unique essence of family firms in line with other researchers who have employed similar concepts of family involvement, family influence, and family control (Konig et al., 2013).

It has been suggested that this uniqueness is largely a result of the idiosyncratic resources and capabilities that are generated when the family system and the business system interact and co-exist in union (Basco & Perez-Rodriguez, 2009; Nordqvist & Melin 2010; Pieper & Klein 2007). …

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