Family business succession: When death takes a hand

The series of ACE research vignettes is aimed at sharing current and interesting research findings from our team of international Entrepreneurship researchers.  In this vignette, Dr. Mervyn Morris considers the impact on family business operations due to the sudden and unexpected death of a key family member.

Family business dominates the economic activity of the majority of countries. Often family businesses are conceived of in terms of generations, from start-ups to families able to trace their beginnings back for centuries. One issue which is common across time and space is the question of succession: that is who will succeed the current family members occupying managerial roles?

There is much known about succession and family business. Key findings are:

  • More than 50 percent of family businesses all agree succession is important, yet do virtually nothing about it
  • the lack of successors can reslt in the business being removed from the control or ownership of the family
  • Those who are succeeded are often the greatest barrier to successful succession plans
  • Succession processes can cause considerable conflict within families with more than one generation involved in the running of the business
  • The emotional links between and among families can be both a competitive advantage and a source of extensive conflict

The purpose of this research was to examine the impact on business operations due to the sudden and unexpected death of a key family member. The model of succession in family business is well enough known.   Read more