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Family dynamics strongly influence a person’s desire to build and grow a new enterprise

What happens at home says a lot about a person’s potential to become the next Steve Jobs or the next Bill Gates. A closer look at family dynamics gives new perspectives on entrepreneurial behaviour, argues Peter Jaskiewicz, Full Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Telfer School of Management.

A person’s family background can explain why they might be more (or less) driven to create new ventures. For example, the family background might accustom someone to open dialogue, or make them comfortable with a wide variety of information sources. “And those attributes correlate nicely with the ability to recognize opportunities and lead a successful business venture,” Jaskiewicz suggests.

Families that avoid conflict or leave little room for open dialogue are worse off in this regard because these dynamics tend to foster respect of authority and conformity. That might set someone up to perform well in workplace settings where conformity of opinion is the norm, but it might make them less prone to start and lead a business.  

Studies that look into family dynamics also help us to understand the outlook of entrepreneurs post start-up, Jaskiewicz says. We can gain a new perspective on entrepreneurial drive to grow and carry on a business over time, why some individuals lose that focus, and why others maintain it. This is also observed in how people interact and make decisions on boards of directors and on executive teams.

“Bringing the family dimension into entrepreneurship provides a different look at entrepreneurial behaviour, and a wealth of insights about the way to foster more entrepreneurship in society.”

More information

Jaskiewicz, P., Combs, J., Shanine, K., Kacmar, K. M. (2017). Introducing the Family: A Review of Family Science with Implications for Management Research. Academy of Management Annals, 11(1): pp. 309-341.


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