Research Reports


A cross-cultural research about family values and family business governance


Principal investigators:

Bice Della Piana

Scientific Director of the Research Lab

Cross Cultural Competence Learning&Education

University of Salerno


Richard Griffith

Executive Director of the Institute for Cross Cultural Management

Florida Institute of Technology

“How the concept of family business varies across culture?”




FBAW project aims to answer this question, by collecting and investigating the different points of view on the topic, given by students located in different countries and cultural clusters.

The basic idea is that culture influences our behaviors, our way of describing the reality and can determine the pattern chosen to understand a phenomenon, in our case the concept of family business.

FBAW project was born in 2016 at Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), promoted by Proff. Bice Della Piana and Richard Griffith, and has been planned as a research focused on a survey about the concept of family firms in students’ mindset who did not receive training on family business governance.

The results of this study by countries have been grouped in different clusters and vary significantly:

  • Eastern Europe countries (Albania, Croatia, Serbia, Poland and Russia): family business implies family owned firm, generally small, with closely related members, strong tradition and same shared values and interests.
  • Nordic-Europe area (Sweden): family members generally hold the role of mere shareholders, not operative, keeping separated the dimensions of ownership and control from operative matters.
  • Middle-West Europe countries (Germany) emphasize characteristics of a family business as tradition and control, stressing their conservative nature, the connection among family members and with the territory.
  • Latin Europe cluster (France, Italy, Spain): family business is mainly about trust, closeness, informality and a strong connection with their community; often, feelings and family ties overtake business matters, mixing personal and professional dimensions, thus leading to a policy lacking meritocracy and resulting in a slow development of the firm.
  • African cluster (Algeria and Mali): family business are inherited from fathers and are strongly influenced by religion and local traditions; the process of growing as a business is particularly challenging.
  • Asian countries (China, Kashmir, Iran and South Korea): family business relies more on blood relations rather than skills set; they are male dominated and based on mutual trust and loyalty, extremely conservative and diffident towards outsiders; the business reflects the norms and the beliefs of the family.

These results are not exhaustive, they schematize some traits of family businesses as perceived by students, graduates and non graduates from different countries characterized by different family value orientations and, consequently, different family firm behaviors. Therefore, these results are only preliminary, a mere “work in progress” which will smooth its strategic scope for cross cultural management issues about family business thanks to future contributions.