Handbook of Research on Family Business
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Handbook of Research on Family Business

Edited by Panikklos Zata Poutziouris, Kosmas X. Smyrnios and Sabine B. Klein

The Handbook of Research on Family Business provides a comprehensive first port of call for those wishing to survey progress in the theory and practice of family business research. In response to the extensive growth of family business as a topic of academic inquiry, the principal objective of the Handbook is to provide an authoritative and scholarly overview of current thinking in this multidisciplinary field.
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Chapter 10: Identification of Different Types of Private Family Firms

Paul Westhead and Carole Howorth


10 Identification of different types of private family firms Paul Westhead and Carole Howorth Introduction The importance and powerful influence of family in all aspects of entrepreneurship and business has recently been highlighted (Aldrich and Cliff, 2003; Rogoff and Heck, 2003). Despite their significant contribution to the economy, research into private family firms is relatively neglected. Perhaps this is because they are believed to be less interesting owing to a lack of agency problems, little separation of ownership and control and shared goals. Many view private family firms as a homogenous group, but casual observation suggests that they differ with regard to their ownership and management structures and the extent to which family objectives dominate. Currently, there is limited understanding of how, why, or the extent to which, private family firms differ. This has implications for the future of family firms research, because the use of an overarching family firm definition, and the failure to recognize contrasts between ‘types’ of family firms may impact on the validity and generalizability of findings. Also, most studies fail to explore the link between the ‘type’ of family firm and its performance, which is important for the development and efficacy of practitioner and public policy support. The stereotypical family firm with good relationships and low information asymmetries may occur less frequently than expected. Indeed, family firms may not be the corporate governance panacea predicted by agency models (Schulze et al., 2001). Limitations of agency theory in...

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