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Nonfamily knowledge during family business succession: a cultural understanding.

Wasim, Jahangir; Cunningham, James; Maxwell-Cole, Alexander; Taylor, James Richard


Jahangir Wasim

Alexander Maxwell-Cole

James Richard Taylor


Knowledge transfer plays a key role in the succession process. While much attention has been given to the passing of business knowledge form incumbent to successor, less is known about the use of nonfamily knowledge during this most crucial of family business events. The purpose of this paper is to look how knowledge from nonfamily employees is treated at times of succession. Importantly, it considers how the controlling family's cultural background may influence nonfamily knowledge use, and subsequent implications for the succession process. An exploratory comparative case study design is adopted in order to uncover the complex social and cultural dynamics around knowledge use. Four case studies are presented from family businesses of different, and contrasting, cultural origins. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews, observations and formal secondary data from the organisations, all of whom operate in the UK. Findings reveal a complex picture, part influenced by the cultural dynamics of the family and part by business necessity. Specifically, power-distance appears as an informative cultural dimension, influencing how knowledge is used and nonfamily are perceived. While some family businesses privilege the knowledge from family, others see the need to build knowledge relationships more broadly. This paper provides further evidence to the heterogeneity of family businesses. It moves beyond a processual explanation of succession to develop a more contextually aware understanding of the dynamics and sensitivities involved.


WASIM, J., CUNNINGHAM, J., MAXWELL-COLE, A. and TAYLOR, J.R. 2020. Nonfamily knowledge during family business succession: a cultural understanding. International journal of entrepreneurial behavior and research [online], 26(1), pages 141-157. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 15, 2018
Online Publication Date Jun 27, 2018
Publication Date Feb 29, 2020
Deposit Date Jun 28, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jun 28, 2018
Journal International journal of entrepreneurial behavior and research
Print ISSN 1355-2554
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 26
Issue 1
Pages 141-157
Keywords Family business; Succession; Knowledge transfer; Ethnic groups; Non family; Cultural background; Case studies
Public URL


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