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Too close and too rigid: Applying the Circumplex Model of Family Systems to First-Generation Family Firms

Authors


  • Nava Michael-Tsabari, MBA, William Davidson Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology; Yoav Lavee, PhD, Center for Research and Study of the Family, Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences, University of Haifa.

Address correspondence to Nava Michael-Tsabari, William Davidson Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel, haela5@zahav.net.il

Abstract

Despite growing research interest in family businesses, little is known about the characteristics of the families engaging in them. The present paper uses Olson’s (Journal of Psychotherapy & the Family, 1988, 4(12), 7–49; Journal of Family Therapy, 2000, 22, 144–167) Circumplex Model of Marital and Family Systems to look at first-generation family firms. We describe existing typologies of family businesses and discuss similarities between the characteristics of first-generation family firms and the rigidly enmeshed family type described in the Circumplex Model. The Steinberg family business (Gibbon & Hadekel (1990) Steinberg: The breakup of a family empire. ON, Canada: MacMillan) serves to illustrate the difficulties of rigidly enmeshed first-generation family firms. Implications for understanding troubled family businesses are discussed together with guidelines for the assessment of a family business in crisis and for intervention: enhancing open communication; allowing for more flexible leadership style, roles, and rules; and maintaining a balance between togetherness and separateness.

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