Edited by Ritch L. Sorenson
Chapter 16: Reclaiming our identity as a business-owning family
In her paper, “The family as an internal and external resource of the firm: the importance of building family- firm identity,” (Chapter 15) Kimberly Eddleston presents a convincing argument that when employees and family leaders embrace their identity as a family firm, their behaviors and decisions will be more likely to lead to the competitive advantages that often accrue to family businesses. While I agree with much of Eddleston’s paper, she has not captured the dynamic nature of the family- firm identity in multi- generational family firms. She accurately notes that the organizational identity of a family firm is closely tied to the family, but she has not adequately considered the impact of the identity of the family itself on the family identity of the firm. From the perspective of a fifth-generation owner of a family firm, it is clear to me that a family-firm identity changes as each generation assumes ownership and leadership roles, with the early generations building the identity, and the later generations modifying, sustaining, or neglecting it. If the family-firm identity is to survive over the generations, the family’s identity must remain strong. The multi-generational family in particular must resist the forces that pull it apart into multiple branches and nuclear family groups, actively nurturing its own identity as a single business-owning family.
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