When business is in the blood : essays on the link between family ownership, strategic behavior and firm performance
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Family firms play a significant role in the U.S. economy, making up about 35 percent of S&P 500 or Fortune 500 companies and contributing about 65 percent to the U.S. GDP. This research explores differences in strategic behavior and firm performance between family firms and non-family firms, and further explores whether family firms such as Dell Inc. that use their founding family’s name as part of their firm name (termed family-named firms, or FN firms) behave and perform any differently versus family firms such as Gap Inc. whose firm name does not include their family’s name (termed non-family-named firms, or NFN firms). The first study which is based on a multi-industry sample of 130 publicly listed U.S. family firms over a five-year period (2002–2006), reveals that compared to NFN firms, FN firms have significantly higher levels of corporate citizenship and representation of their customers' voice (i.e., presence of a chief marketing officer) in the top management team. FN firms also have a higher strategic emphasis (i.e., a greater emphasis on value appropriation relative to value creation) compared to NFN firms. Furthermore, FN firms perform better (i.e., have a higher ROA) than NFN firms, and their superior performance is partially mediated by their higher corporate citizenship levels and strategic emphasis. In the second study — an event study of 1294 product introduction announcements of 107 publicly listed U.S. family firms from 2005-2007 — I find that relative to NFN firms, FN firms are rewarded more by the stock market for introducing new products. Superior returns to FN firms’ new product introductions are partially mediated by these firms’ history of trustworthy product-related behavior: FN firms, particularly those with corporate branding, and those wherein a founding family member holds the CEO or Chairman position, are more likely to exhibit a history of avoiding such product-related controversies as product safety issues, and deceptive advertising. The third study explores differences in strategic behavior and firm performance between family firms and non-family firms in the context of 7 U.S. economic recessions between the years 1970 and 2008. Findings based on a sample of 428 U.S. publicly listed firms reveal that family firms consistently outperform non-family firms during economic recessions. This superior performance is partially driven by family firms’ unique strategic behavior: during recessions, family firms maintain higher levels of advertising intensity, exhibit lower financial leverage, and get involved in fewer social and employee-related unethical actions than non-family firms. The three studies taken together have important implications for family firm, branding, CSR, firm valuation, and innovation-related theory and practice. I highlight these implications in my dissertation.