Adaptation or Expiration in Family Firms

Adaptation or Expiration in Family Firms

Organizational Flexibility in Emerging Economies

Andrés Hatum

Andrés Hatum explores determinants of organizational flexibility in this examination of four family-owned companies, two flexible and two less flexible, from the edible oil and pharmaceutical industries. By means of an innovative analysis – including longitudinal analysis, coding analysis, statistical analysis and the use of original display charts – he illustrates the determinants of flexibility and sheds light on the process of transformation and adaptation of family firms, an area that has not yet been the subject of extensive empirical inquiry.

Chapter 6: Case Study: Laboratorio DERSA

Andrés Hatum

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, family business, organisational behaviour


OVERVIEW OF THE HISTORY OF DERSA 1930–1999 Founded in 1930 by two Frenchmen Jean Dufour and Patrice Patou, DERSA1 was in 1999 a leading company in the dermatological sub-market of the industry (IMS, 1999). DERSA was among the leading 20 companies in Argentina (IMS, 1999). Until the definitive split between the partners, that occurred in 1950, the company had commercial or industrial outlets in 19 countries.2 When the partners split, they shared the brands and branches between them. They also granted each other the right to found businesses in countries where DERSA had not already established itself. Jean Dufour carried on with the internationalization process in different countries such as Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Colombia and Mexico. The headquarters of the new DERSA was in Argentina. In 1979, Jean Dufour died, leaving eight children. That year, the family situation took its toll on the organization because the shares were held by so many private individuals that there was no impetus to continue as a group. A gradual exit from the world of business, the loss of group identity and family continuity in the Southern Cone area were the three phenomena which marked 1979. The only part of the family to persevere with the business was the family that remained in Argentina and which took over operations in Uruguay and Paraguay under the son of Jean Dufour, Émile. The remaining companies of the group were sold off. The Argentinian market is the most important for DERSA both...

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