Title: What is a family business? A discussion of an integrative and operational definition

Authors: Manuel Carlos Vallejo Martos

Addresses: Facultad de Ciencias Sociales y Juridicas, University of Jaen, Building D-3, Office 7131, Campus Las Lagunillas s/n, 23007 Jaen, Spain

Abstract: The organisations known as family firms have been studied according to many criteria. However, whenever the criterion of classification and study has been whether the firm is a family firm or not, questions immediately arise about the conceptual reality of the term |family firm|. There is still no agreement in the scientific community about what parameters should be used to specify this concept. In spite of this, there have been many studies since the early 1970s that have attempted to unify criteria. Thus, in the present work we first review, analyse and discuss the appropriateness of the various dimensions most commonly used in the literature to define the term |family firm|; subsequently, we propose an integrative and operational definition of the term which is non-exclusive and independent of the evolutionary stage arrived at. We base the definition on two dimensions: sufficient share of the capital to control the decisions of the owners| representative body and determination to maintain the business in the hands of the succeeding family generation.

Keywords: conceptual reality; family businesses; family firms; operational definition; integrative definition; classification.

DOI: 10.1504/IJESB.2007.013692

International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business, 2007 Vol.4 No.4, pp.473 - 488

Published online: 11 May 2007 *

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