Research Projects

Currently, the Witten Institute for Family Business (WIFU) is conducting the following research projects.


Current research projects:

Behavioral and Cultural Aspects of German, Indian and Chinese Family Firms

logo_DEGThis project is funded by the “Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH (DEG)”. The project examines various aspects of the internationalization process of family businesses to make a contribution to this national and international scientific research field and to give owners and managers of family businesses important insights into complex strategic internationalization processes.

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Chinese Family Businesses in Cultural and Social Change

This project deals with the special role of the family in Chinese private enterprises. This topic is currently very relevant in China because the companies that were founded in the eighties, after the start of reforms, fall into a successor constellation today, which often becomes a succession crisis and thus threatens to overthrow an important engine of China’s development. In the PRC also special conditions prevail, such as the one-child policy and the regional diversity.

Success Factors of Mixed Management Teams in Family Businesses

The project Success Factors of Mixed Management Teams in Family Businesses” is carried out in cooperation between the Witten Institute for Family Business (WIFU) and the PricewaterhouseCoopers AG. The aim is the creation of a Germany-wide, practical and practice-oriented study on external management in family businesses. Here, the following question should be pursued in particular: How can the potential of a joint management team of internal and external managers be of use?”

Family businesses in India: Theory, empiricism and implications for practice

There are hardly any detailed research findings on the peculiarities of Indian family businesses. To understand these, contextual factors of India need to be explored so that a comprehensive contribution to the academic study of Indian family business can be done. In addition, it also requires relevant practical results, to improve the management tools of the Indian family businesses.

Family Business in Japan –

Surveys on the longevity of firms, however, reveal that many of the oldest family companies in the world are Japanese. This research project addresses this apparent contradiction and takes up family businesses and business families in Japan. At the focus of the learning journey is the question of the role of the business family in Japanese multi-generational firms. A first issue to be analyzed is the historical legacy of family structures and their relevance for today.

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Women in Family Businesses

The WIFU research project “Women in family businesses – Daughters in Succession” deals with a central, but little-studied group of actors in family businesses. The research project investigated how the experience of female successors differs from the experience of male successors and what affect the relationship with the parents has on the process. This evaluation examined in particular how daughters are being educated and how socialization and training influence the succession readiness and the succession activity. Now the next project step focuses on a comparative study between successors and followers.

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War(s) of Roses” – Explanatory Models for Different Progressions of Conflicts in Family Businesses

The research project deals with the question of how constructive and destructive conflicts within the family business in its various progressive forms can be explained. The aim of this work is to reconstruct the interplay of conflictual behavior patterns on the part of the conflicting parties as well as the inherent momentum of the conflict over time.

„Ownership – Meaning and Practices“ – a Cooperation Project with JIBS

JIBSThis project is conducted together with the Center for Family Enterprise and Ownership Research at Jönköping International Business School (JIBS). It examines the role of ownership” of the family in the family business. The term ownership” is in the international debate exactly considered less clear than one might think. The question of what it means to be the owner, what this means for the life of the individuals and the challenges, practices and dialogues arising from the fact are in the focus of the project.

Personal Skills and Motives in Succession

umfrageThe Witten Institute for Family Business (WIFU) conducts a Germany-wide study on succession in family businesses with the support of the Banque de Luxembourg. Family business owners are faced with the challenge of ensuring the long-term survival of their company. A successful succession is the key success factor. In recent years the research on family business was dedicated to the question of necessary conditions and success factors of a successful handover. However, existing studies assume the perspective of the company or the active generation of entrepreneurs. The perspective of the next generation, which should clarify the question of a potential succession, that is close to the entry into the company, or that has already become the successor, remains unanswered. This study focuses on the needs of the successors themselves.

STEP-Project for Family Enterprising

The STEP PROJECT FOR FAMILY ENTERPRISING is an international research program with the aim to determine profit and loss factors for the maintenance and development of entrepreneurial skills in business families and run benchmarking on patterns of success of family businesses. Initiator of the project is the Babson College in Boston, Massachusetts (USA). In addition to the Witten Institute of Family Business (WIFU) five other institutes are founding partners of the project: The Center for Family Business at the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland), the ESADE Business School (Spain), the Haute École de Commerce, Paris (France), the Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi (Italy), and the Jönköping International Business School (Sweden).

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Boards and Corporate Governance in German family

This research project in cooperation with the Reinhard-Mohn-Institut (RMI) deals with the question of how boards and supervisory boards of German family businesses contribute to the company’s growth and value creation over generations. With this project, a research platform is being built, based on a database containing information about German family businesses with a special focus on directors and growth strategies. The main objective is to encourage such research that deals with the behaviour of directors in relation to the company’s survival and sustainability aspects over several generations.

Research cooperation with the Hénokiens Association (France)
HenokiensBetween the Hénokiens Association (France) and the Witten Institute for Family Business (WIFU) a research collaboration has been initiated with the aim of promoting research in the field of family business with a particular focus on the sustained success of long-lived family businesses.


Completed Research Projects:

Emotional Dynamics in Mergers of Family Businesses

In this project, the events during a merger process of family businesses were reconstructed. A special focus was put on the emotional dynamics that may result from the merger. It was the aim of the scientific analysis to make the findings applicable for future mergers. Audris Muraitis was working closely with a family business in the fifth generation. The source of this project was a failed merger process.

Cross-generational Family Strategies

A task for the management of a family business is to ensure that the family remains a resource for the company for generations to come. Today, family strategies are considered the central key of how to keep the connection of the two complex systems “family” and “business” alive, of how to promote constructive influences of the two systems specifically to each other and how to minimize destructive influences. Together with a group of 12 multi-generational family businesses family strategies were explored in this project.

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Shareholder Competence in Family Businesses

This unique research project investigates in particular the following research questions: “What are the requirements to owners of family businesses, and what challenges are involved?“, “Where are the specific responsibilities and tasks of (non-) active family shareholders and in what form are those prepared for the exercise of their owners’ interests?“, “What experience already exists with the targeted development and training of shareholder competence in family businesses?” and “What needs exist in the skills development of (young) shareholders and how can they be met?”

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Family Business Almanach

To date, there is no reference book in Germany about big family businesses who have accomplished outstanding economic and social benefits over the course of three or more generations. The book entitled “Big business families” is therefore devoted to the portraits of 50 major family businesses, which are at least 100 years old. The book examines the development of the company as well as the business family and shareholder.

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Crises and Conflicts in Family Businesses II

The research project involved carrying out a quantitative study with crisis experts (insolvency administrators, crisis management and crisis consulting companies) to validate research findings on the course dynamics and influencing factors of corporate crises in family businesses. In cooperation with the Credit Reform eV, a quantitative survey and evaluation of the insolvency rate of German family business was conducted. Finally, a quantitative survey of existing knowledge about specific system conditions in family businesses (Family Awareness) was done with external members involved in the process as part of the crisis management.

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Crises and Conflicts in Family Businesses I

Financial crisis and global recession have affected the German economy as a whole. Various government support measures were introduced to reduce the effects on the economy. Stimulus programs followed the rescue funds created for the banks, and a “Germany fund” was set up in order to secure corporate financing on a broad basis.

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Family Business as a “Brand”

It is quite justified to say that family businesses have become a “brand” on their own. Brand, in the sense that a target group is given “brand promise”, which is closely linked to the name and is associated with reliable orientation and quality safety. The idea that the term “family business” has now become a quality seal itself was the starting point of an image study that the WIFU conducted in cooperation with the 10th Congress for Family Businesses at Witten/Herdecke University.

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