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Closely-Held & Family Business

What is the Successful Trans-generational Entrepreneurship Practice (STEP)?

The Successful Trans-generational Entrepreneurship Practice(STEP) research project originates from an initiative launched at Babson College, USA. Babson College is world famous for its strengths in entrepreneurship education and research. Introducing the subject of family enterprising, Babson College and its Institute for Family Enterprising (under founding Director Timothy G Habbershon) wanted to draw a group of leading business schools and entrepreneurship and family business scholars together to investigate transgenerational entrepreneurship in family business. STEP is intended to be a global research project, and the first region to start conducting research was Europe. Since July 2005, a group of six leading European business schools have conducted case research based on a common research framework and methodology. The STEP project was launched in ASIA PACIFIC in 2007 using the successful modelled developed by the Europeans and which was subsequently adopted in South America.

In 2008, the first Asia Pacific Summit of the STEP Project was held in Hong Kong.  Kevin Au, Justin Craig, and Kavil Ramachandran edited a book to be published in 2011 by Edward Elgar. The book carries the title "Family Business Enterprising in Asia: Exploring trans-generational entrepreneurship in family firms."   See description below:


This edited volume reports and elaborates the findings of the STEP Asia Pacific Consortium after their first family summit in 2008. The STEP Project, acronym for Successful Transgenerational Entrepreneurship Practices, is an international research study on corporate entrepreneurship in family businesses initiated by the Babson College. Following a rigorous research scheme, scholars from India, Greater China, and Australia conducted in-depth case studies and wrote up 11 chapters addressing the challenges that business families face in sustaining successfully their entrepreneurial capabilities across many generations. These challenges include dealing with communication issues across generations, resolving conflict between siblings, preparing and luring younger generations back to family business, and professionalisation of business. The chapters go beyond the succession and governance challenges and explore the processes and outcomes of entrepreneurship in the Asia family context.


The STEP Project: Asia Pacific Summit 2008

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Hosted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), the first Asia Pacific Successful Trans-generational Entrepreneurship Practice (STEP) Summit has been successfully held on 20-22 November 2008. With more than 160 participants from family businesses and educational institutions of different regions, the summit underwent extensive discussion on entrepreneurial family firms in Asia Pacific rim. The family case studies of Battaglia Family and Deague Family from Australia and Lee Kum Kee Health Products Group Limited of China in the afternoon session marked the climax of the Summit. Both family business executives and scholars benefited from the summit through mutual exchange of ideas.

The STEP Book 2007

Working Title: Family Enterprising in Asia: Where East meets West


The intention of this book volume is to report and elaborate the ASIA PACIFIC findings from this case research. Each ASIA PACIFC university team will contribute with one chapter based on their case research that investigates a particular, or multiple dimensions, of the overall research framework. These chapters will be scholarly and research-based chapters (that is, not teaching cases). The purpose of each chapter will be to interpret the common research question to introduce key findings to extend or challenge existing theory. The authors of each chapter will be asked to follow a specific chapter template in order to secure a consistent and well-structured edited research volume. We will also have an internal review process among the contributors to support the writing process and ensure final quality of the chapters.


Positioning of the Research and Theory Background

The majority of firms in most countries are family firms, but they are still under-researched and poorly understood. Apart from some Special Issues of Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice and Journal of Business Venturing sporadic contributions (Poza, 1988; Gartner, 1990; Hall et al 2001; Johannisson, 2002; Habbershon & Pistrui, 2002; Zahra et al 2004; Kellermans and Eddleston, 2007; Naldi et al. 2007), an area receiving particularly little attention is entrepreneurship in family firms (Wortman, 1994; Chrisman et al 2005). In many family firms the ownership/management is maintained over several generations and a key challenge for long-term survival is to sustain the entrepreneurial spirit. All firms regularly need to renew their way of doing business in order to stay competitive as they risk losing their entrepreneurial capacity when they mature (Hamel, 1996; Eisenhardt & Martin, 2000). But family firms face additional challenges for entrepreneurship. For instance, little is known about how family firm governance structures with highly concentrated power and long-term intergenerational perspective affect entrepreneurship (Hall et al 2001). Some scholars see family firms as a context where entrepreneurship flourishes, while the others argue the opposite, i.e. family firms are conservative, introvert and inflexible and lack entrepreneurial spirit (Zahra, 2005). Most agree, however, that research is needed of entrepreneurial processes in family firms, and especially on how entrepreneurship can be maintained and practiced across generations (Habbershon & Pistrui, 2002; Zahra et al 2004). The STEP research aims to investigate transgenerational entrepreneurship in family firms. Importantly, this means a dual unit of analysis, where we introduce the business family unit along with the more traditional firm unit of analysis. Combining literature on corporate entrepreneurship, especially entrepreneurial orientation, with the resource based view, and literature on family firms, especially on values, continuity, culture and governance, we investigate two broad research questions in the Asian context:


  • How do business families and family businesses generate and sustain entrepreneurial performance across generations?
  • How does entrepreneurial performance relate to continuity, growth and transgenerational entrepreneurship of business families and family businesses?
Participating Universities:

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