Naveed Akhter (2016)

Family Business Portfolios: Enduring Entrepreneurship and Exit Strategies

This dissertation examines how family business portfolios endure across time and investigates the entrepreneurial strategies that they engage in. The goal of this dissertation is addressed through five appended papers in which I have argued for the importance of business families owning multiple firms, that is, portfolio entrepreneurship. Portfolio entrepreneurship plays a central role in economic development as it is a prevalent phenomenon in developed and emerging economies. However, despite its importance, there is currently very little research on portfolio entrepreneurship, especially in the context of family firms.

In so doing, I study nine business families owning multiple businesses in Pakistan. I conducted in-depth interviews with family owners and employees; the interviews were supplemented with other sources of data such as observations and archival material. When studying questions such as how a portfolio is built-up across generations, how and why business families exit and, when they exit, which businesses they choose to exit from, I draw on insights from the literature on portfolio entrepreneurship, business exit, family firms, socioemotional wealth, sensemaking, compassion and social identity theory in the five papers.

The dissertation addresses the calls for studies on portfolio entrepreneurship in the context of family firms by examining the process through which a portfolio is constructed by studying performance and exit related issues. In other words, it examines both the growth and the contraction of portfolios. The study offers several contributions. First, it contributes to studies on enduring entrepreneurship by investigating how business families last across time despite encountering difficult situations and declining business. Second, the study contributes to the portfolio entrepreneurship literature by elucidating how portfolios are built across generations and the roles of both growth and contractions while addressing processual and contextual issues.

Third, the study contributes to the business exit literature by looking at the exit process in a family business context and exploring multiple exits. This isunique, as it is, to the best of my knowledge, the first study on business exits looking at multiple exit in the context of family firms. Fourth, the study also contributes to the literature on family firms by exploring how and why business families refrain from exiting from their core legacy business and how their emotions influence the exit process.

Finally, the study contributes to context-related issues. The study adds to the literature on contextualization and addresses the call for more context-specific studies in entrepreneurship scholarship. This dissertation is focused on context-based factors considering the spatial and social context, where the former has been undertaken by taking an emerging economy and country context as the setting, while the latter refers to the relational and emotional ties within family firms. In addition to its theoretical contributions, this dissertation has important implications for practice. The dissertation brings to the fore some promising and unique ways in which entrepreneurship endures across time and context through the transgenerational transmission of entrepreneurship and insights into how business families behave in a declining business situation. Additionally, this study offers insights for family owners and managers on how to address the dilemma of continued entrepreneurship, that is, how to encourage and foster enduring entrepreneurship in organizations, in particular in the context of family firms.