Both the entrepreneurship and the family business fields are reaching their momentum (Melin, Nordqvist, & Sharma, 2014; Venkataraman, Sarasvathy, Dew, & Forster, 2012) and scholars acknowledge the importance of considering not only the family business dimension, but also the individual and family dimensions of entrepreneurship phenomena (e.g., Aldrich & Cliff, 2003; Marchisio, Mazzola, Sciascia, Miles, & Astrachan, 2010; Nordqvist & Zellweger, 2010). The idea of looking at the intersection of the family business and entrepreneurship fields has become relatively common in the early 2000s, thanks to some scholars (e.g., Chrisman, Chua, & Steier, 2003; Habbershon & Pistrui, 2002; Hall, Melin, & Nordqvist, 2001; Rogoff & Heck, 2003; Zahra, Hayton, & Salvato, 2004) whose efforts have encompassed promising new perspectives. While several papers have focused on themes that can be considered as part of the Family Entrepreneurship field, rare are the cases where an explicit definition of Family Entrepreneurship can be found. For example, among the first special issues dedicated to the topic, Rogoff and Heck (2003) compare entrepreneurship and family business research and conclude that families are the oxygen that feed the entrepreneurial fire. In the same issue, Aldrich and Cliff (2003) demonstrate the interrelatedness of family and entrepreneurship by showing how changes in the family have altered the landscape of entrepreneurship. Among the first inspiring contributions, Habbershon, Williams, and MacMillan (2003) define enterprising families as those with a vision forged by the controlling family which “directs the enterprising activities of the family unit, business entity, and individual family members so as to pursue the maximum potential wealth for current and future generations of family members.” This paper was one of the first to introduce also a robust theorizing about transgenerational wealth creation, a concept to which we will return later. A few years later, in their seminal work, Heck and colleagues define Family Entrepreneurship as a phenomenon involving “the underpinnings and interactions of two systems, namely, the family system and the business system” and show how promising could be studying these fields as well as the overlap between them (Heck, Hoy, Poutziouris, & Steier, 2008: 324). Later on, Nordqvist and Melin (2010), contributed by identifying two separate, yet related dimensions – the dimensions of the entrepreneurial family and the entrepreneurial family business. They use the concept of the entrepreneurial family to refer to “the family as an institution, or social structure, that can both drive and constrain entrepreneurial activities,” while they consider the entrepreneurial family business as “a type of organization, or organizational context, with certain characteristics
that can facilitate or constrain entrepreneurial activities, processes and outcomes” (Nordqvist & Melin, 2010: 214). In the same vein, Uhlaner, Kellermanns, Eddleston, and Hoy (2012), examined the intersection of entrepreneurship and family business and offer a paradigm to explain the entrepreneurial behaviors of family firms. In this case the authors specifically focused on entrepreneuring families, defined as “the subset of business-owning families focused on entrepreneurial objectives or motives” (Uhlaner, Kellermanns, Eddleston, & Hoy, 2012: 2). Thus, in the general literature, the concepts of entrepreneurial families and/ or family businesses seem to be quite common, and perceived as fascinating. For example, Poutziouris, Steier, and Smyrnios (2004) talk about “family business entrepreneurial development” while Campbell calls for more transgressive research that aims at revealing the full entrepreneurial potential of family firms and shifts away from the paradigm of the single, heroic entrepreneur to legitimize approaches that also take into account emotional resources, shared values, and underlie “the integration of head and heart” (2011: 41). A sub-theme − and probably one of the most studied recently − of Family Entrepreneurship is transgenerational entrepreneurship which links entrepreneurship and family business theory (Nordqvist & Zellweger, 2010) and is defined as “the processes through which a family uses and develops entrepreneurial mindsets and family-influenced resources and capabilities to create new streams of entrepreneurial, financial and social value across generations” (Habbershon, Nordqvist, & Zellweger, 2010: 1). In this vein, to explore the entrepreneurial process within business families across the globe both qualitatively and quantitatively, the STEP (Successful Transgenerational Entrepreneurship Practices) project has been founded and involves now more than 30 countries and 125 researchers. Kraus and colleagues (2012: 135) similarly to the works mentioned above, do not define Family Entrepreneurship explicitly but stress that family business and entrepreneurship are not contradictory or exact synonyms. For the authors, “family businesses are entrepreneurial . . . they just go about it differently by leveraging their distinct familiness (Habbershon et al., 2003).” As Kraus and colleagues (2012) note, family firms are a unique form of ownership which relies heavily on the overlap among family, business, and ownership systems (Gersick, Davis, McCollom, & Lansberg, 1997). These authors implicitly talk about Family Entrepreneurship by stressing that successful family firms are the ones that are able to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive and vigorous for the next generations. Recently, Fayolle and Begin (Begin & Fayolle A., 2014; Fayolle & Begin, 2009) have focused their attention on the family dimension of individual and organizational entrepreneurial behaviors and the entrepreneurial dimension of family businesses. Building on and extending this perspective, in this volume we define Family Entrepreneurship as the research field that studies entrepreneurial behaviors of family, family members, and family businesses (Bettinelli, Fayolle, & Randerson, 2014). We accompany this definition with two visual frameworks that (hopefully) help us offer a clearer view of the concept (Figure I.1). This conceptualization (represented in Figure I.1) presents three loci (i.e., individual, family, and family business) and identifies the main nexus, between the individual and the family, between the family and the family business, and between the individual and the family business. Each nexus – represented by the arrows – symbolizes the influences on the entrepreneurial behaviors of each loci.
With the framework illustrated in Figure I.1 we aim at adopting a holistic view and to take into consideration that not only entrepreneurial behaviors of an individual are in most of the cases rooted in the family context, the sustainability of the family firm depends on individual and/or collective entrepreneurial behaviors. Additionally, family firms are qualified as such by virtue of family ownership, management, or participation in an entrepreneurial firm. Finally, both entrepreneurial behaviors and the success or failure of the family firm impact the family unit (Bettinelli, Fayolle, & Randerson, 2014). This broad definition allows us to incorporate the previously mentioned concepts and to integrate them into a framework that should help scholars systematize knowledge on the topic. By focusing on behaviors, this definition takes into proper consideration the dynamic nature of Family Entrepreneurship, additionally by considering different loci (i.e., the individual, the family, and family business) it allows us to disentangle the intrinsic complexity of the phenomena under study (Bettinelli, Fayolle, & Randerson, 2014). While previous research has tended to focus on entrepreneurial phenomena that occur where family and family business overlap, this conceptualization underscores the importance of Family Entrepreneurship as a holistic phenomenon that affects, and is affected by, the three different loci above identified. Thus, not only the family and the family firms are considered, but also the individual, and circular effects are presented in the figure (e.g., family firms are affected by the family but also the family can be affected by family firms’ behaviors, individuals’ behaviors affect family firms, and vice versa, and so on). This is in line with research that has acknowledged that a large part of