Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 32451
Transgenerational Entrepreneurship in Chinese Family Businesses: Proposal for a Model of Work-Life Synergy

Authors: Jenny Oliveros Lao Phillips, Arturo E. Osorio, José Alves


Family business are the dominant form of business in the world, and Chinese family business (CFB) is a unique type of family business that relies on collective action to survive. This paper argues that in CFBs, entrepreneurial actions are transgenerational collective endeavors, and successors are groomed as stewards of the family legacy. Work-life relationship in CFBs is about synergy and not balance because the family identity is the business identity, and vice-versa. Using five in-depth case studies, this research introduces an alternative understanding of CFBs and proposes a model of work-life synergy in transgenerational entrepreneurship based on discussion of five theory-based propositions. This model explains that through emphasizing on the business family’s shared value and entrepreneurial legacy, elements of trust, shared identity and stewardship of family members are enhanced which leads to collective action and goal of the business family, resulting in transgenerational entrepreneurship. Limitations and future research are presented.

Keywords: Chinese family business, family legacy, stewardship, transgenerational entrepreneurship, work-life synergy.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI):

Procedia APA BibTeX Chicago EndNote Harvard JSON MLA RIS XML ISO 690 PDF Downloads 818


[1] B. Bird, H. Welsh, J. H. Astrachan, and D. Pistrui, “Family business research: The evolution of an academic field,” Family Business Review, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 337-350, December 2002.
[2] P. Leach, Family businesses: The essentials. London: Profile Books Ltd., 2007.
[3] P. Sharma, “An overview of family business studies: Current status and directions for the future,” Family Business Review, vol.17, no. 1, pp. 1-36, March 2004.
[4] K. E. Gersick, J. A. Davis, M. M. Hampton, and I. Lansberg, Generation to generation: Life cycles of the family business. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1997.
[5] J. J. Chrisman, J. H. Chua, and L. Steier, "An introduction to theories of family business,” Journal of Business Venturing, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 441–448, July 2003.
[6] G. A. Alsos, S. Carter, and E. Ljunggren, “Kinship and business: How entrepreneurial households facilitate business growth,” Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, vol. 26, no. 1-2, pp. 97-122, January 2014.
[7] K. Eddleston, and G. Powell, “Nurturing entrepreneurs' work-family balance: A gendered perspective,” Entrepreneurship: Theory & Practice, vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 513-541, March 2012.
[8] P. McGowan, C. Redeker, S. Cooper, and K. Greenan, “Female entrepreneurship and the management of business and domestic roles: Motivations, expectations and realities,” Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, vol. 24, no. 1-2, pp. 53-72, January 2012.
[9] A. Hoffmann, M. Junge, and N. Malchow-Møller, “Running in the family: parental role models in entrepreneurship,” Small Business Economics, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 79-104, January 2015.
[10] H. Van Auken, P. Stephens, F. L. Fry, and J. Silva, “Role model influences on entrepreneurial intentions: A comparison between USA and Mexico,” International and Entrepreneurship Management Journal, vol. 2, pp. 325-336, September 2006.
[11] J. S. Coleman, “Social capital in the creation of human capital,” American Journal of Sociology, vol. 94, supplement, pp. S95-S120, July 1988.
[12] C. Guo, and J. K. Milller, “Guanxi Dynamics and Entrepreneurial Firm Creation and Development in China,” Management and Organization Review, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 267-291, March 2010.
[13] J. L. Ward, Keeping the family business healthy: How to plan for continuing growth, profitabililty, and family leadership, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1987.
[14] R. Beckhard, and W. G. Dyer Jr., “Managing continuity in the family-owned business,” Organizational Dynamics, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 5-12, Summer 1983.
[15] R. Tagiuri, and J. A. Davis, “On the goals of successful family companies,” Family Business Review, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 43-62, March 1992.
[16] M. Harvey, and R. Evans, “Family business and multiple levels of conflict,” Family Business Review, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 331-348, December 1994.
[17] K. Cabrera-Suárez, P. D. Saá-Pérez, and D. García-Almeida, “The succession process from a resource- and knowledge-based view of the family firm,” Family Business Review, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 37-47, March 2001.
[18] P. D. Olson, V. S. Zuiker, S. M. Danes, K. Stafford, R. K. Z. Heck, and K. A. Duncan, “The impact of the family and the business on family business sustainability,” Journal of Business Venturing, vol. 18, no. 5, pp. 639-666, September 2003
[19] D. Miller and I. L. Le Breton-Miller, Managing for the Long Run: Lessons in competitive advantage from great family businesses, Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2005.
[20] I. L. Le Breton-Miller and D. Miller, 2006. “Why Do Some Family Businesses Out-Compete? Governance, Long-Term Orientations, and Sustainable Capability,” Entrepreneurship, Theory & Practice, vol. 30, no. 6, pp. 731-746, November 2006.
[21] D. Miller, I. L. Le Breton-Miller, and B. Scholnick, “Stewardship vs. Stagnation: An Empirical Comparison of Small Family and Non-Family Businesses,” Journal of Management Studies, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 51-78, July 2007.
[22] P. Davis, “Realizing the potential of the family business,” Organizational Dynamics, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 47-56, Summer 1983.
[23] M. Carney “Corporate governance and competitive advantage in family-controlled firms,” Entrepreneurship, Theory & Practice, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 249-265, April 2005.
[24] C. Salvato and L. Melin, “Creating value across generations in family-controlled businesses: The role of family social capital,” Family Business Review, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 259-276, September 2008.
[25] T. J. Rothausen, “Management work—family research and work—family fit: Implications for building capital in family business,” Family Business Review, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 220-234, June 2009.
[26] S. A. Zahra, “Entrepreneurial risk taking in family firms,” Family Business Review, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 23-40, February 2005.
[27] J. L. Arregle, M. A. Hitt, D. G. Sirmon, and P. Very, “The development of organizational social capital: Attributes of family firms,” Journal of Management Studies, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 73-95, January 2007.
[28] L. R. Gomez-Mejia, K. Haynes, M. Nunez-Nickel, K. Jacobson, and J. Moyano-Fuentes, “Socioemotional wealth and business risks in family-controlled firms: Evidence from Spanish olive oil mills,” Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 52, no. 1, pp. 106-137, March 2007.
[29] I. Lansberg, Succeeding generations: Realizing the dream of families in business. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, p.9, 1999.
[30] K. Eddleston F. Kellermanns and T. Zellweger, “Exploring the entrepreneurial behavior of family firms: Does the stewardship perspective explain differences?” Entrepreneurship: Theory & Practice, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 347-367, September 2010.
[31] T. Gatfield, and M. Youseff, “A critical examination of and reflection on the Chinese family business unit and the Chinese business clan,” Family Business Review, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 153-158, June 2001.
[32] W. L. Tan and S. T. Fock, “Coping with growth transitions: The case of Chinese family businesses in Singapore,” Family Business Review, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 123-139, June 2001.
[33] S. T. Fock, Dynamics of family business: The Chinese way, Singapore: Cengage Learning Asia, 2009.
[34] S. G. Redding, The spirit of Chinese capitalism, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1990.
[35] F. Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity, New York: Free Press, 1995.
[36] V. Zheng, Chinese family business and the equal inheritance system: Unravellinng the myth, London: Routledge, 2010.
[37] J. Lee, and F. Tan, “Growth of Chinese Family Enterprises in Singapore,” Family Business Review, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 49-74, March 2001.
[38] J. Yan, and R. Sorenson, “The effect of Confucian values on succession in family business,” Family Business Review, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 235-250, August 2006.
[39] J. Lee, “Culture and management—A study of small Chinese family business in Singapore,” Journal of Small Business Management, vol. 34, no. 3, pp. 63–67, July 1996.
[40] R. D. Whitley, “The social construction of business systems in East Asia,” Organization Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 1–28, January 1991.
[41] L. Schjoedt, E. Monsen, A. Pearson, T. Barnett and J. Chrisman, “New venture and family business teams: Understanding team formation, composition, behaviors, and performance,” Entrepreneurship: Theory & Practice, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 1-15, September 2012.
[42] A. D. Cruz, C. Howorth and E. Hamilton, “Intrafamily entrepreneurship: The formation and membership of family entrepreneurial teams,” Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 17-46, July 2012.
[43] P. Jaskiewicz, J. Combs, and S. Rau, “Entrepreneurial legacy: Toward a theory of how some family firms nurture transgenerational entrepreneurship,” Journal of Business Venturing, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 29-49, January 2015.
[44] K. M. Eisenhardt and M. E. Graebner “Theory building from cases: Opportunities and challenges,” Academy of Management Journal, vol. 50, no. 1, pp. 25–32, February 2007.
[45] R. K. Yin, Case Study Research: Design and methods, 4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2009.
[46] H. F. Hsieh and S. E. Shannon, “Three approaches to qualitative content analysis,” Qualitative Health Research, vol. 15, no. 9, pp. 1277-1288, November 2005.
[47] A. W. Pearson, J. C. Carr and J. C. Shaw, “Toward a theory of familiness: A social capital perspective,” Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, vol. 32, no. 6, pp. 949-969, October 2008.