Family Business Research

We look at the relations between different forms of rationality in the business and the family, allowing a more holistic analysis than one based on the more orthodox concept of rational economic man. Business behavior tends to be modeled on entrepreneurial responses to risk. The analysis here strives not to see small businesses as large businesses in microcosm. It recognizes small business as an "uneasy stratum" (Bechhofer and Elliott, 2001) with characteristics of labor as well as capital – an institution that can only be fully understood when seen in its social and economic context.
Why should a household approach be used in small-business research? Concepts of "flexibility" – both in the production system as a whole and in individual large firms – have become fashionable explanations for competitive responses as a crisis of Fordist mass-production methods. Given the key role played by small firms in these models, it is surprising that there has been so little investigation of the forms that flexibility might take within the small business itself (Wheelock, 2002b, 162. Mariussen and Wheelock, 1997, 15). The forms flexibility takes within the smallest firms will be, at least in part, a function of how they are embedded in the household, family, and other social networks in the informal or complementary economy (Wheelock and Oughton, 1996, 153). Studies of small businesses in restructuring economies showed a close interrelationship between work for the business and the family, to an extent that justified the use of the term "family economic unit" (Wheelock, 1992b, 163). This is supported by other qualitative studies&nbsp.(Phizacklea and Ram, 1996, 321. Ram and Holliday, 2003, 633) as well as by two large-scale surveys (Poutziouris and Chittenden, 1996. Rosa, Hamilton, Carter, and Burns, 2004, 29),(1) indicating that other motivations operate besides economic gain.