Although family firms are constantly thought of as conservative about change, especially those evolutions which lead to a dilution of control over the business, most family business models have the perfect ethos to take advantage of the growing globalisation of the business world.
There are several advantages of globalisation for those firms willing to take the plunge:
In a recent case study, by Andrea Colli, Esteban García-Canal and Mauro F. Guillén, analysing six family businesses, three Italian and three Spanish, it was found that the ‘family character’, unique to family businesses over other business types, was fundamental in making the internationalisation process successful.
The study found that family character:
It is interesting to note that the increased internationalisation of firms has not meant the weakening of family control in most cases.
In the case of Spanish companies, a lot of the family owned companies are still relatively new, being in either their first or second generation, due to the disruptive effects of the Spanish Civil War. This means that it is often the founder who has chosen to internationalise as part of their original strategy for the company. This elicits a higher degree of control than if the company was internationalized further down the line, and for possibly differing reasons. In such cases, even if an outside professional is brought into the company in a key position such as CEO or CFO, the family still remains firmly in control.
Family businesses do not only lend themselves to internationalisation, but recent studies have even linked this business model as the protagonist in the framework of international entrepreneurship. It can be said that the internationalisation of family firms was the ‘outcome of a silent revolution’ through which these family firms adjusted their resource endowments in order to take proper advantage of the opportunities stemming from their growing environment.
Family firms have consistently proven themselves as the historians of business, with the experience and expertise to not only find their way through difficult times, but often to thrive in new circumstances that can be the downfall of other companies.