[We’re pleased to welcome author Alfredo De Massis of Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, who recently published an article in Family Business Review entitled “Incumbents’ Attitude Toward Intrafamily Succession: An Investigation of Its Antecedents,” co-authored by Philipp Sieger, Jess H. Chua, and Silvio Vismara. From De Massis:]
- What inspired you to be interested in this topic?
This study examines how family firm incumbent leaders’ attitude toward intra-family
succession is influenced by family traits, firm characteristics, and incumbent leader attribute.Two considerations played an important role when we decided to investigate the incumbent leaders’ attitude toward intra-family succession and designed a survey targeted to Italian family firm incumbents: (i) the family firm intra-family succession process is largely under incumbents’ control; and (ii) without incumbents’ positive attitude, the process is less likely to even begin.
So a clear understanding of the antecedents of the incumbent leaders’ attitude toward intra-family succession is important in order to ensure transfer of leadership from one generation to the next.
- Were there findings that were surprising to you?
One of the most surprising findings is that, contrary to our hypothesis, our data show that incumbents’ attitude toward intra-family succession is negatively affected by the combination of family ownership duration and firm economic performance. This unexpected finding supports the argument that better economic performance leads to higher firm financial value, which favors the immediate benefits of selling the business over the long-term ones of intra-family succession, while duration of ownership, through professionalization, may make the higher value business more liquid.
- How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?
Next-generation members’ intention for intra-family succession has received considerable scholarly attention, but researchers have so far overlooked that of the incumbents despite recent literature reviews calling for research on intra-family succession intention from incumbents’ perspective. Indeed, most prior studies examining family business succession from incumbents’ perspective have focused on the actual behavior (i.e., intra-family succession) and dealt with the issues and challenges during the succession process, with none of them taking a step back to focus on the intention toward such behavior.
To the best of our knowledge, the only empirical study explicitly focusing on the intention for intra-family succession is the exploratory one by Chua et al. (1999). That study did not probe deeper into the antecedents of intra-family succession intention, so we lack rigorous, systematic, and empirical investigations of the factors affecting this important determinant of family firm behavior.
One of the most important determinants of the intention for intra-family succession is attitude toward intra-family succession. Our study examines how family firm incumbent leaders’ attitude toward intra-family succession is influenced by family traits, firm characteristics, and incumbent leader attribute.
Theoretically, our study contributes toward a more complete understanding of family business succession and, practically, provides suggestions about how to influence incumbents’ attitude toward intra-family succession.