Rania Labaki: a decade dedicated to family businesses
On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the chair she is directing, dedicated to family businesses, Rania Labaki, Associate Professor at EDHEC Business School, gives her point of view on the key issues that concern these players - their durability, their specific challenges, their impact...
You lead a network of international researchers on the subject of "Family Business": what major analyses and trends do you retain from the past decade?
There is a growing awareness of the role of family and emotional dynamics in the decisions, performance and impact of family businesses (1). The issues surrounding these dimensions are both exciting and complex, and are increasingly in the air, but there is still a long way to go. These questions are close to our hearts not only because they are emotional but also because we were among the pioneering researchers to raise our voice on the interest of studying them and to integrate them into our various research areas.
During this decade, we have explored emotional interaction during the transmission process, financial decision-making, the development of entrepreneurial behaviour, and the resilience of family businesses, particularly in times of crisis (2). We have developed various analytical models that can serve as a reading and action grid for family businesses, as well as research agendas to guide and inspire the academic community in this direction.
The EDHEC Family Business Chair is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. What are the achievements of which you are particularly proud?
We are proud to have enriched the exchange and knowledge of these particular businesses in a number of ways that reflect our core activities for all family business stakeholders - research, training, and knowledge dissemination.
In terms of research, we have to our credit some thirty academic publications, including contributions in the main academic journals dedicated to family businesses and editions of special issues of academic journals, such as "Emotions and Family Businesses" published in Entreprises et Histoire (3), and "A Governance Approach of Emotions: For More Meaningful Entrepreneurial and Family Businesses" published in Entrepreneurship Research Journal (4).
Then, we have integrated the fruit of our research combining emotional, financial and organisational aspects of the family business into the teaching we provided. We have thus contributed to the training of our students at EDHEC on these subjects at the BBA, Master, and EMBA levels (including an EMBA course dedicated to family businesses). As part of our customised training, we have trained family businesses such as Bonduelle and Groupe Roquette, members of the Family Business Network Levant, as well as family business stakeholders such as notaries in partnership with the Conseil Supérieur du Notariat.
At the European level, we have developed online training courses with European partner institutions through Erasmus+ projects supported by the European Commission. We have also developed innovative pedagogical tools and teaching aids, and published some fifteen case studies on family businesses.
In terms of disseminating our knowledge, we have participated in numerous international academic and professional conferences to present our research. We have also organised twenty-five events allowing us to cross the views and feed the research, reaching nearly 1000 participants from different continents. In the same vein, our research has been the subject of more than 150 professional articles, press articles, media interviews, podcasts and radio programmes across the continents (5).
And your efforts have been rewarded with awards, and with many partners who trust you
Yes, our work has repeatedly received prestigious international awards such as the IFERA award for the best research paper with practical implications, the FFI honourable mention for the best unpublished research on family business, and the Barbara Hollander award for educational innovation and commitment to the cause of family business.
This decade has also been marked by some twenty partnerships with organisations that share our values, notably The Family Business Network - France, Les Hénokiens, Tharawat Forum, Musée de Dotation du Louvre, Trusted Family, Family Firm Institute, IFERA, KPMG, Degroof Petercam. Our success depends on the commitment of our members coupled with the unfailing support of our founding members, notably family businesses, some of which have been with us for 10 years, such as the Mulliez Family Association and the Roquette Group.
The conference on 13 October is an opportunity to discuss the challenges of the coming years with the partners and business leaders present. Could you detail some of the challenges that you consider essential?
Climate change, pandemics, wars, resource scarcity, social, racial and gender disparities, disinformation and digital transformations... These are the challenges facing the world today. Unprecedented challenges given the systemic impact that can result, threatening our societies and economies. The good news is on the other side of the coin. Meeting these challenges will have a positive knock-on effect that will benefit our societies and economies. Family businesses are at the forefront because they often have a competitive advantage over other types of businesses, given their history of anticipating and managing crises. However, as generations pass, they face an additional challenge. The risk of weakening family ties is growing and operates in a context of changing family structures and increasing intergenerational differences in the search for meaning and the family and strategic priorities to be defined.
Ensuring a sustainable future requires a strong sense of responsibility, permeating the decision-making and behavioural process from intention to reality for family businesses and their stakeholders. As a result, the actions of family businesses resonate with a positive impact for the family, the business and the wider community.
Inspiring, connecting, and educating to perpetuate a responsible family business model remains at the heart of our mission within the Family Business Chair. The conference on 13 October will consolidate our future plans in this direction, through promising exchanges with experts and multidisciplinary researchers, managers and shareholders of family businesses from different continents and backgrounds.
(1) Rania Labaki et Fabian Bernhard, Anger, pride, guilt, regret… what role do emotions play in family firms? EDHEC Vox, May 2022 - https://www.edhec.edu/en/research-and-faculty/edhec-vox/anger-pride-guilt-regret-what-role-do-emotions-play-in-family-firms
(2) See all the references in the EDHEC Vox article cited in footnote (1)
(3) Ludovic Cailluet, Fabian Bernhard et Rania Labaki, Émotions et entreprises familiales. Entreprises et Histoires, Juin 2018 (n°91, 172 pages) http://entrepriseshistoire.ehess.fr/juin-2018-n91-172-pages-emotions-et-entreprises-familiales/
(4) Rania Labaki et Giorgia M. D'Allura, Special Issue: A Governance Approach of Emotions: For More Meaningful Entrepreneurial and Family Businesses. Volume 11, Numéro 3 de Entrepreneurship research journal, https://www.degruyter.com/journal/key/erj/11/3/html
(5) Dont Forbes Middle East, Forbes India, Financial Times, Les Echos, Le Figaro, La Tercera, El Pais, FB Campden, Tharawat, Le Nouvel Obs, Das Handelsblatt, L’Agefi Actifs, The Conversation …