Crises and Conflicts in Family Businesses I

Leading on from a research project completed in 2008 on the peculiarities of crisis dynamics in family enterprises, a follow-up project is now being run by the WIFU. Investigations centre on the janus-faced creative and destructive power of the entrepreneur family–a much-cited phenomenon but one which has only been examined at a rudimentary level in the context of crisis management. Furthermore, investigation is to be made of how far non-family members involved in a crisis process (e .g . bank representatives, crisis managers/ consultants) are aware of the special system-related conditions of family enterprises, what approaches they use to handle internal family conflicts and how these inform crisis management techniques. Within the project as a whole, individual subprojects look in more detail at insights into this thematic complex which have already been generated, providing validation by means of quantitative surveys as well as addressing new issues. The research results are presented in various formats and made available for practical use. In addition to the publication of guides on specific topics, there are also plans to create a handbook for crisis and conflict management in family enterprises.

The research project also includes the implementation of a quantitative study among crisis experts (insolvency administrators, crisis management and crisis consultancy firms) to validate research outcomes on the dynamics and key factors associated with crises in family enterprises. In collaboration with Creditreform e. v., a quantitative survey and analysis is being carried out which looks at the insolvency rate of Germany family enterprises. Finally, a quantitative survey is being carried out on existing knowledge of special system-related conditions in family enterprises (family awareness) among non-family members involved in the pro- cess of crisis management. There are also plans to run a detailed, in-depth qualitative analysis of specific factors impacting on crisis development in family enterprises by means of a number of case studies.

The thematic complex “Crises and conflicts in family enterprises” is a key focus of research work at the WIFU. In addition to the current research project, there are also accompanying studies (for example on the impact of the economic crisis on family enterprises) and dissertations on specific aspects of proactive and reactive conflict and crisis management.