Researching Family Business Growth

Author:Wim Voordeckers, Jolien Huybrechts, Salvatore Sciascia, Alessandro Cirillo, Donata Mussolino
Publication Date:01 Sep 2020
Researching Family Business Growth
Department of Economics, University of Foggia, Via R. Caggese, 1, 71121, Foggia, Italy
School of Business and Economics, Department of Organization, Strategy & Entrepreneurship, Maastricht University, 53
Tongersestraat, 6211, LMMaastricht, The Netherlands
University of Naples Federico II, Department of Mangement, Via Cinthia Complesso Monte SantAngelo, Napoli, Italy
Università Cattaneo LIUC, Corso Matteotti 22, 21053, Castellanza (VA), Italy
Research Centerfor Entrepreneurship and FamilyFirms (RCEF), Martelarenlaan42, Hasselt University,3500, Hasselt, Belgium
This paper is the first in a specialsection of the European Management Review dedicated to the growthof family
businesses. We provide a literature review of 54 articles written in this research field, based on a framework that
highlights the antecedents and the outcomes of growth at the family and the business levels. We also offer a brief
overview of the contributions of each of the papers in this special section and conclude by identifying relevant
research gaps to propose a numberof future research directions.
Keywords: Family business; Growth; Literature review
Growth is one of the main challenges of any type of firm
(Penrose, 1959). The identification of the characteristics
that enable a firm to grow is at the center of the attention
of academics and policy makers around the world, not
only because growthis an expression of business success,
but also because it may have a significant impact on the
economy and society in terms of new job creation
(Davidsson and Wiklund, 2006).
As family businesses represent the most widespread
type of firm around the world, and are consequently of
vital importance for the world economy, understanding
the antecedents and outcomes of growth of this kind of
firm deserves particular attention. Indeed, statistics show
that a significant number of family firms follow a growth
strategy and reach a substantial size, especially in Europe,
where 48.6% of the worlds500 largest family businesses
are located, generating revenues of US$2.89tn, that is,
13.2% of Europes GDP, and employing more than 8.9
million employees, representing 2.3% of Europes
workforce (Ernst and Young, 2016). Family controlled
firms are also the backbone of the US economy where
they account for 64% of GDP and generate 78% of all
new jobs creation. Moreover, family-run firms represent
85% of $1 billion-plus businesses in South-East Asia,
around 75% in Latin America, 67% in India and around
65% in the Middle East (Ernst and Young, 2016).
For family firms, growth could be related to both
business and family issues (Ingram et al., 2016). On the
one hand, growth helps family firms strive for the
business-oriented aim of sustaining a financially
prosperous firm. On the other hand, growth is also
specifically relevant for the family-oriented goal of
developing new employment opportunities for the next
generation and transferring the firm across generations
(Naldi et al., 2007; Ingramet al., 2016). At the same time,
a growth strategy may threaten the family need for
liquidity and control over the business, so that some
family businesses deliberately choose not to grow
(Hamelin, 2013).
While family ownership has served as a useful lens to
investigate firm growth (Calabrò et al., 2017), prior
literature did not sufficiently explore to what extent
growth is related to family involvement in management.
This gap clearly emerges from the literature review we
have conducted in this paper. Indeed, family involvement
in management could be an asset or a liability for family
firm growth (Yeung, 2000) as it influences the way
strategy is planned and realized (Uptonet al., 2001). Such
a gap has offeredus the opportunity to propose this special
section for the European Management Review.
Correspondence: Donata Mussolino, University of Naples Federico II,
Department of Mangement, Via Cinthia Complesso Monte SantAngelo,
80126 Napoli(Italy). E-mail:
European Management Review, Vol. 17, 733746, (2020)
DOI: 10.1111/emre.12389
©2020 European Academy of Management

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