SOTA Review

Stewardship and Survival: What can we learn from longstanding family businesses?


Associated Themes
  • Business Growth
  • COVID-19
  • Entrepreneurship

The most prevalent form of business around the world is the family business, defined as one where members of the same family own sufficient capital to give them significant influence over the business. In many countries, family businesses represent over two thirds of all businesses. Many of the oldest companies in the world are family businesses and evidence suggests that they may be better survivors than other types of companies: a considerable number are hundreds of years old, having survived world wars, revolutions, and pandemics. This review examines research on how longstanding family businesses ensure their continuity through generations. Family firms who look to the next generation of owners, and the generation after that, may have a long-term perspective and ‘stewardship’ mindset. Family businesses in the UK were more likely to survive through the 2008 recession; the relevance of board and ownership stability to improved ability to survive indicates that long-term orientation is important. Further research is called for to understand variations and test assumptions.