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Family Business Models: Practical Solutions for the Family Business

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In the early 20th century, American sociologist W. I. Thomas won fame with the statement: ‘If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.’ This fundamental observation on human behavior, now known as the Thomas theorem, became a cornerstone of contemporary sociology. The idea that our perception of the world determines our mindsets, and that these in turn guide how we manage the surroundings of our lives and the architecture of the institutions we create, is not new. In fact, like all important ideas, it has a long history. Even Plato preached it with his metaphor of the cave, at the dawn of Western culture. Its ‘constructionist’ advocates in philosophy and psychology include figures of the stature of José Ortega y Gasset, John Dewey, Herbert Spencer and Sigmund Freud himself.

The ideas gathered together in this book emanate from this intellectual tradition and make an extraordinary contribution to both research on and the practice of the family business. Alberto Gimeno, Gemma Baulenas and Joan Coma-Cros derive their concepts from a thorough empirical investigation and show us once again that Kurt Lewin, the father of social psychology, was right when he stressed that ‘There is nothing so practical as a good theory.’

On the basis of an analysis of more than 1,500 Spanish companies, the authors narrow the field down to six archetypes of family business (The Captain, The Emperor, The Family Team, The Professional Family, The Corporation, and The Family Investment Group). Each of these archetypes describes a structural configuration of the family firm at a different stage of development, with its corresponding parameters of complexity, efficacy and risk. The basic assumption is that what works like a dream in one type of family business may be a recipe for disaster in another. Furthermore, these six archetypes not only constitute a useful typology for segmenting the universe of family businesses, but also describe the mindsets that business leaders possess regarding their systems.
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