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From domestic to transgenerational contexts: the distinctiveness of family business organisational forms Denise Fletch

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“At the beginning I was completely immersed in the entire venture, and I loved the thrill of it. It was brilliant watching all the jobs coming in and trying to get staff organised. It was amazing and I loved it. Very quickly though it became really hard because all that success needed minute organising and administrating otherwise we would go under. Then it became a love hate relationship for me. I loved the tenders, and the quotes and the clients and the jobs and the projects. At the start it was very much just that- an extension of my personality. It was fun, colourful (naive) creative, exciting, caring. When we realised that we would go bankrupt if we didn’t change the perspective, it became an extension of its own personality and we have to keep giving in to its demands. It’s not creative or fun now; its capitalist. It’s all about the money”.

From domestic to transgenerational contexts: the distinctiveness of family business organisational formsDenise Fletcher


  • Informal arrangements – voluntary and emotional contributions that are allocated to entrepreneurial endeavours
research themes on copreneurship
Research themes on copreneurship
  • determinants and characteristics of successful copreneurship (Tompson and Tompson, 2000; Muske & Fitzgerald, 2006).
  • differences between copreneurs and non-copreneurial couples (Muske & Fitzgerald (2007).
  • post divorce situations (Cole and Johnson, 2007).
  • occupational contexts such as farming (Amarapurkar and Danes, 2005) which tie couples in their work together or where spouse is active in the vocation of their partner (Zablocki & Kanter, 1976).
  • copreneurialactivity related to ownership and managerial roles in the business (Fletcher 2010).
  • family contexts and resources and the relationships between spouses and family businesses or business owning families (Smith, 2000).
  • outsourcing of child care (Avery et al., 2000).
  • joint careers in family businesses (De Bruin and Lewis (2004).
  • household management Duncan et al. (2000) and financial performance (van Auken and Werbel, 1998).
  • spousal commitment and support to business owning families (Kirkwood, 2009).
  • women’s involvement in business-owning families (Danes and Olson, 2003) and the sometimes ‘invisible’ role of women in family businesses (Hamilton, 2006 and Gillis-Donovan and Moynihan-Bradt, 1990; Philbrick and Fitzgerald 2007).
  • ‘third shift’ to highlight the multiple formal/informal work and family roles Lee et al (2006).
  • how small business impacts on the home/work life balance of the owner-manager (Campbell Clark, 2000; Zody, 2006; Shumate & Fulk, 2004).
work so far
Work so far
  • How couples in busines share a commitment to and responsibility for entrepreneurial endeavours in terms of risk, ownership and – how this is enacted in their life together.
  • Demonstrate how couples in business align their skills, knowledge and resources in relation to each other to realise the endeavour.
  • Display the empirical variety of co-preneurial situations to illustrate diversity and different ways in which work and personal relationships are organised around the business.
challenges of spousal entrepreneurship
Challenges of spousal entrepreneurship


  • Balancing roles and work-life
  • Building a business from personal to professional
  • Leadership ambiguity for employees
  • Life style v growth issues
  • Maintain boundaries from each other’s work
  • Managing emotions at work
  • Second partner needs to gain ownership of the business idea/build up credibility
  • Managing stress levels


  • Balancing roles
  • Balancing work and family
  • Helping spouse to switch off
  • Informality of business
  • Unpaid work
  • Unregistered work activity
  • Moving to legitimate business
  • Security of income from other partner
  • Getting time/attention of partner


  • Allocating time and resource to different businesses
  • Not in touch with day to day operations
  • Managing financial accounts can be complex


  • Develop next generation and think about sustainability of the business
  • Keeping the business fresh
  • Maintaining or reducing loyalty to past generation
  • Helping parents to let go
  • Making the business ones’ own
  • Getting buy in from employees/clients
  • Distribution of rewards and dividends if parents still have some ownership
revised conceptualisation of co preneurship
Revised conceptualisation of co-preneurship

In co- preneurship the couple share a commitment to and responsibility for the business venture in terms of risk, ownership and management and enact this in their life together.

There is emotion work, risk taking, life making and ‘market work’ characterised by the alignment of creative interests, knowledge, labour or skills with one’s spouse which are assessed as having commodity or market value and which lead to the creation (or repositioning) of an organizational entity.

(Fletcher, forthcoming ISBJ)















Figure 2: The role of couples and families in business venturing (Adapted from Litz, 1995)

Management roles undertaken by.......

Next stage of research: ethnographic study of couples in business (from domestic to trans-generational)
  • Consider how organisational creation is realised within and between couples/household.
  • Evaluate how couples construct an account of their role/entry/absorption/integration into the business.
  • Examine what effect participation in the entrepreneurial endeavours has on the couple in terms of managing their business/private life.
  • Examine how couples in business - continuously manage the physical, temporal and emotional aspects of living and working together; whether the organisational demands of entrepreneurial endeavours lead them to seek segmentation/transitions between different aspects of their lives.
  • Assess the wider socio-economic effects of couples and families in business.
  • Consider wider structural and institutional influences
from domestic to trans generational organisational forms
From domestic to trans-generational organisational forms

In a discussion on transgenerational wealth in family Habbershon & Pistrui argue to focus on the family as the unit of analysis (the enterprising family) and the need to track the transgenerational spread of wealth.

  •  They make a distinction between:
    • ‘families in business’ v ‘families as investors’
    • two axes – acceleration of business v preservation of the business
    • generation v transgenerational wealth creation
    • managerial strategy as planned/efficient/internal continuity v entrepreneurial strategy (as outward looking, creative, discovery).
  • Top right quadrant = Enterprising family domain (‘family as investor’ mind set, employing entrepreneurial strategic methods).
  • Preoccupation with the family as the unit of analysis misses wider processes:
    •  the travelling, translation and movement of ideas, innovations or inventions across national borders;
    • changing consumption patterns, industry norms etc
    • The transformative effects on regions/communities/localities etc.
where has my family s wealth gone
Where has my family’s wealth gone?

Jeremy Clarkson – ‘Who do you think you are? Great, great, great, great grandson of

Tracked family history - Kilner jar (Huddersfield).

Very successful and innovative company – creating many patents for glass bottles; employing thousands of workers, setting up many factories.

Jeremy Clarkson’s research into his family tree revealed ancestors who were at the heart of the industrial revolution. The Kilner family had established several glassworks across the north of England during the nineteenth century, when business boomed and vast fortunes were amassed; indeed, the Kilner name became associated with the production of a particular type of storage jar, with the brand-name still in use today.

Unfortunately for Jeremy, the family fortunes were lost in the early twentieth century, partly through changes to the glass bottle manufacturing industry when more effective mechanisation was introduced from America, and partly because the family business passed into less capable hands – a fact demonstrated by the vastly reduced sums of money left in successive generations of Kilner wills.

The impact of the Kilner’s Providence Glassworks in Conisbrough, the town where Jeremy’s great-great grandparents Caleb and Eleanor Kilner lived, was considerable. Not only were the glassworks the main source of employment – as demonstrated by census returns throughout the nineteenth century – but the Kilner family helped to finance the local Methodist minister, acting as trustees for the land on which the chapel was built. Even a bridge in the town bears the Kilner name. The changes made to Conisbrough by the industrial activity of the Kilners can be traced at The National Archives in two major land surveys, the Tithe Apportionments of the mid-nineteenth century and the 1910 Valuation Office survey. and skill

theoretical re balancing
Theoretical re-balancing

Risk taking

Raising finance, assuring collateral, employing new members of staff, engaging family members, government regulations; ultimate responsibility for the business; propping up business from personal money; manage risks on daily basis.


The need to manage public/private identities and intra/inter-firm relationships

Wider institutional issues shaping organisational forms

The travelling, translation and movement of ideas, innovations or inventions across national borders;

Changing consumption patterns, industry norms etc

The transformative effects on regions/communities/localities etc.


Life making in evidence –income generation, family demands, keeping family members in employment, career change, bereavements, parents retiring, labour market issues, income for the household.

Commercialisation of intimate life

For the good of the entrepreneurial endeavour.

Emotion work

Making sacrifices - covering of emotions, resentment, not getting paid, the time the business takes from the children/family/personal time/effects on personal relationships – divorce); loneliness; emotional responsibility


Sensitising concepts

Organisational forms

Are shaped by social worlds, friendships, network practices industry norms, associations, wider institutional practices

literature on boundaries
Literature on boundaries

Boundaries as ‘the physical, temporal, emotional, cognitive and/or relational limits that define entities as separate from one another’ (Ashforth et al. 2000:474)

  • They mark the:
    • social structure of an organisation,
    • resources held by the company or
    • sphere of influence operated by the organisation (Santos and Eisehardt, 2005) through boundary conceptions (efficiency, power, competence and identity) to demark the organisational boundary between the organisation and its environment (p.491).

How boundary-spanning/crossing/segmentation or integration is important for: the functional work of the organisation:

such as marketing Kellog et al. 2006);

the identity/meaning work of the individual;

  • maintaining work-family conflict/roles (Foley & Powell, 1997; Campbell Clark, 2000; Zody et al. 2006)
  • or work-home distinctions (Shumate and Fulk, 2004; Kreiner, 2006; Sturges, 2008).
  • enabling flexible forms of work (Peper, 2005).
  • Managing conflict, strain and depletion (Greenhaus and Beutell, 1985; Edwards and Rothbard, 2000) when roles are not clear.

In progressing from domestic to trans-generational situations, is there a point at which the question of ‘who is the ‘family’ in the family business’ is the wrong question to ask?

entrepreneurial endeavours are highly absorptive occupational pursuits
Entrepreneurial endeavours are ‘highly absorptive’ occupational pursuits

This term was introduced by Kanter (1977) ‘to distinguish occupational pursuits that not only demand the maximum commitment of the worker and define the context for family life, but which also implicate other family members in the work system’ (p.87).

Occupational contexts that activate an organisational demand on partners (political roles, small towns, total institutions (i.e. care homes or boarding schools), in times of controversy - and in entrepreneurial climates.


This is all just getting too much. The metaphor I have for how I feel on days like that is like being in a black hole with everything falling in on top of me and I am just small at the bottom of the hole watching these things come in. I knew things were going to be hard but did I really think they would be this hard? I feel…. because of my desire to help him to get things right. He is also trying to prove so much to himself that he can do it. He wants to be a successful business man. I want him to realise his aspirations but his business requirements impinge so much on our family life that I find it exhausting and what he wants for himself becomes my responsibility also. The incessant presence of the business is wearing me out and I like to put things into slots – I think through what needs to be done, then I break it up and allocate the jobs to slots. But you can’t do this when you are running a business, you can’t plan or organise yourself, so you have to change and adapt.