The aim of the WIFU Department of Management of Family Businesses is to contribute to the development of a theory of family businesses. Family business research is closely linked to entrepreneurial issues and also connected to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurial firms.

The transformation from an industrial to a knowledge society places particular demands on family businesses. Because of their (family-) specific resources, appropriate management and organisational structures are needed to cope with these transformations. We focus our research on the management and organisation of family businesses, strategy and innovation, as well as the changing role of family businesses in economic and social transformation processes. The Department investigates the following research questions, among others:

  • Which specific management and business models are used in family businesses?
  • What influence do corporate governance mechanisms have on family businesses?
  • How do resource-specific characteristics and dynamic abilities provide family businesses with competitive advantages?
  • What role do top management teams, mixed management teams and corporate succession play in family businesses?
  • How can innovation processes and success be steered and increased in family businesses?
  • How do family businesses overcome crises and stay viable?


  • Foundations of academic work and empirical research
  • Advanced qualitative methods
  • Management of organisations
  • Strategy development in family businesses
  • Personnel management
  • Economics of strategy
  • Current issues in family business management
  • WIFU research colloquium


Dr. Maike Gerken
Senior Research Fellow
Nicola Mehringer
Secretary at the Chair of Management of Family Businesses, Corporate Entrepreneurship and Digitisation, Family Business Law, Leadership and Dynamics in Family Businesses
Andrea Gerlitz
Scholarship holder of the WIFU Foundation/ Research Fellow Chair of Management of Family Businesses
Solvej Lorenzen
Scholarship holder of the WIFU Foundation


  • Heider, A., Gerken, M., van Dinther, N., & Hülsbeck, M. (2020): Business model innovation through dynamic capabilities in small and medium enterprises–Evidence from the German Mittelstand. Journal of Business Research. Online first.
  • Gerken, M., Bretschneider, U., & Hülsbeck, M. (2019): More than a need for knowledge: understanding drivers for knowledge seeking behavior in online communities. ICIS Proceedings 2019.


  • Innovation processes and capabilities in family businesses
  • Digital business model innovation
  • Corporate entrepreneurship in family businesses
  • Corporate crises and turnaround management in family businesses
  • Family-specific influences on internationalisation in family businesses
  • Expertise and motives in corporate succession
  • Employee trust and organisational engagement in family businesses
  • Mixed management teams in family businesses
  • Regional employer appeal in family businesses
  • Corporate governance in family businesses
  • M&A and private equity strategies in family businesses


  • Die Rolle von Vertrauen im Kontext von Nachfolgeprozessen in Familienunternehmen (The role of trust in the context of succession processes in family businesses)
  • Externe Führung in Familienunternehmen – Erfolgsfaktoren bei der Kooperation von familieninternen und familienexternen Führungskräften (External leadership in family businesses – success factors in the cooperation of family and non-family leaders)
  • Family Business Models: The Family as Strategic Asset across Different Stages of the Businesses Naturity
  • Families Investing in Families – Survival Factors of Family Firms
  • Geschäftsmodellinnovation in Familienunternehmen (Business model innovation in family businesses)
  • Long-term Compensation of CEOs and M&A Returns
  • Managing the intricate Relationship of Hierarchy and Democracy within Organizations
  • Top Management Team Diversity and International M&A Performance


  • Dr Anne Heider: Innovationsverhalten in Familienunternehmen (Innovation behavior in family businesses)
  • Dr Maike Gerken: Human Resource Management in Familienunternehmen (Human resource management in family businesses)
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