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Competitiveness of family businesses in the world: missing something in our research?

Very often we read in family business scholarship about entrepreneurship, leadership, endurance, emotions, values, but I cannot see much about competitiveness, or productivity. Are we missing the key issue of any business when approaching family businesses?

Let´s start about competitiveness. Michael Porter has published many articles indicating how a sector approach must be adopted in order to analyze the competitiveness of regions, nations, firms. Why don´t we apply this perspective to family business analysis, to analyze whether our families are more or less competitive than others in similar sectors and market niche? Shouldn´t we be providing in this way something tremendously useful in order to plan endurance, entrepreneurship, and so on, to family businesses?

Second, let´s talk about productivity. History shows how the real key issue from Neolithic times to our days in order to have sustainable economies and societies, and firms, is the ability to create environments in which innovation is possible, in order to find ways that keep our firms and societies being productive. What is productivity all about? Basically, about getting more output from every piece of input. This changes through time, as products, processes, organizations, mature and decline. Has anybody in family business literature tried to measure productivity levels of family businesses in different periods, within similar sectors, in order to see how innovation is allowed (or not) in order to find new ways of having families and societies keeping sustainable productivity levels that made them endure?

An economic history approach may help in focusing family businesses from a sector and productivity approach. A research project at Universitat de Barcelona in Spain is trying to do this. Currently we are studying competitiveness and productivity of the largest 25 family businesses in 6 developed economies and 4 emerging economies. An advance of first results with comparison of large family businesses in China, Mexico and Brazil is available in


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