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Gen NeXt and family businesses succession: investigating challenges and opportunities of intergenerational succession journeys in contemporary SMEs

  • School: Nottingham Business School
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Self-funded


Family business studies have grown significantly over the past twenty years denoting a preference towards practice-oriented methods and interdisciplinary approaches. One of the aspects that has consistently been at the centre of researchers’ attention in this field is succession. Specifically, research in family firms suggests that, at some stage, such businesses must address the issue of ownership succession (Bjuggren and Sund, 2001). Independently from the point in which succession decisions are taken (e.g. within the lifetime of the owners or at the time of their death), there is relevant complexity tied to the process. In addition to some of the core contributions to this literature (e.g. Handler, 1994) concerned with the succession process in its own right, the role of the founder, the perspective of the next generation, the different levels of analysis succession offers and the characteristics of effective successions, researchers have been looking at:

1) Intergenerational succession as an interactive, dynamic social process (e.g. Lam, 2011). From this point of view, attention falls on the importance of the notion of ‘present’ during the succession process.

2) A processual conceptualisation of communication during succession with particular focus on the moment in which decisions take place (e.g. Helin and Jabri, 2016). From this point of view, the dynamic interactions between the actors involved emphasize the continuous development and transformation of the succession context.

3) Succession as a fertile context for decision bias (e.g. Liu, Eubanks and Chanter, 2015). From this point of view, nepotism draws attention on the risks emerging from leaders following judgemental shortcuts and sampling bias.

4) The patterns of succession (e.g. Miller, Steier and Le Breton-Miller, 2003) based on the adoption of conservative, wavering or rebellious courses of action in terms of strategy, organisational culture, governance and performance.

5) The role of sex and gender in family business succession research (e.g. Nelson and Constantinidis, 2017), with a focus on equality and equity attitudes, gender roles, gender identity, importance of primogeniture and patriarchal power.

Doctoral candidates who wish to conduct their research in the field of intergenerational succession in family business, are invited to develop a proposal centred on one of the two following areas, with particular emphasis on Millennials/Gen NeXt takeovers:

a) The role of favouritism, nepotism and decision bias in FB succession

b) The role of sex and gender in FB succession

It is desirable for candidates to explore either of the two areas by using an interpretivist approach and a case study design. Looking at family business intergenerational succession from one of those two angles, and in relation to Millennials/Gen NeXt, can shed light on dynamics that offer scope for further development.


Liu, C., Eubanks, D. L., & Chater, N. (2015). The weakness of strong ties: Sampling bias, social ties, and nepotism in family business succession. The Leadership Quarterly, 26(3), 419-435.

Miller, M. B., Hodge, K. H., Brandt, A., & Schneider, E. A. (2013). The Young and the Restless: Gen Y'ers in the Workplace! Are You Prepared?. FDCC Quarterly, 63(3), 226.

Nelson, T., & Constantinidis, C. (2017). Sex and gender in family business succession research: A review and forward agenda from a social construction perspective. Family Business Review, 30(3), 219-241.

Weber, J. (2017). Discovering the millennials’ personal values orientation: A comparison to two managerial populations. Journal of Business Ethics, 143(3), 517-529.


Doctor Ofelia A. Palermo

Entry qualifications

For more information please visit the NTU Doctoral School – Research Degrees webpages.

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Ofelia Palermo