[We’re pleased to welcome authors Jean S. K. Lee of China Europe International Business School, Guozhen Zhao of Delta State University, and Feifei Lu of Shanghai University. They recently published an article in the Family Business Review entitled “The Effect of Value Congruence Between Founder and Successor on Successor’s Willingness: The Mediating Role of the Founder–Successor Relationship,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the influences and possible impact of this research:]
What motivated you to pursue this research?
Many founders face a dilemma when their children are unwilling to continue the family business. Conflict in founder-successor relationship is commonly observed and cited. Both parties often claim that they have value conflict. We therefore decided to investigate the value (in)congruence between founders and successors. Value congruence in individual values and organizational values has been well studied in the OB field. In the family business context, we like to examine the effects of a family value (i.e. family prosperity in the current study) in the founder-successor relationship and succession.
Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?
Challenges in family business and succession become increasingly important in China as the Chinese economy has been continuously growing in the last three decades. Many family-owned companies are going through the transitional stage in which the first generation founders need to transfer the leadership to the second generation. Many companies that failed such transfer of leadership also failed as a company. Thus, China as a fast growing and emerging market provides an interesting and unique setting to examine the G1-G2 succession process.
What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?
Collecting dyadic data from both family-business founders and successor appeared to be the greatest challenge in this study. The findings on value incongruence was surprising and novel because they provide evidence that value congruence is not all equally positive and beneficial and value incongruence is not all equally negative and detrimental.
In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?
Our research is innovative in the following three ways. First, we are among the first few empirical studies that use the social exchange theory to explain family business succession. Second, we investigate how founder-successor value (in)congruence play important roles in this social exchange process. And third, we argue that family value (in)congruence shows different effects on the quality of founder-successor relation and successor willingness to take over the leadership role. Our research will impact the field by pointing a new direction of value congruence in family business research based on the solid theoretical foundation of Social Exchange Theory.
What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?
It is important to find a right overarching theory to guide the inquiry and analysis process. It will help the thinking and writing process to be more focused and in-depth, and to tell a more coherent story. It is also important to research on an important and relevant topic so that the findings can provide insightful findings and practical implications to the real world.
What is the most important/ influential piece of scholarship you’ve read in the last year?
The research that integrates social exchange with family business research, which could change the family-business research paradigm, making it more theory-driven and data-validated.