PurposeFamily firms possess dual identities, being the family and the business, which can be segmented and integrated to various degrees. This study examines whether and how management control technologies are calibrated to fit into the dual identities of family firms.Design/methodology/approachA qualitative study of 20 family firms was conducted using semi-structured, in-depth interviews with owner-managers, drawings of mental maps and publicly available information. The notion of calibration was developed and used, with its three components of graduation, purpose and reference, as an organizing device for the interpretive understanding of the management control usage and its relation to family firms’ dual identities.FindingsThe study finds that the use of calculative, family-centric and procedural management controls – in sum the pervasive use of management control technologies – are associated with a professionalization of the family firm, a foregrounding of the business identity and a reduction of the disadvantageous side of familiness. In comparison, the pragmatic and minimal use of management control technologies are found to be associated with an emphasis on family identity. It transpires as liberating, engendering trust and unfolding a familial environment.Research limitations/implicationsBecause results are derived from a qualitative approach, they are not generalizable at an empirical level. By showing how the use of management control technologies is calibrated with reference to family firms’ dual identities, the paper reveals the perceived potency of control technologies to affect the identity of firms.Practical implicationsThe study reveals how family firms perceive management control technologies as strengthening their business identity while weakening their family identity. Thereby, this study provides an account of how management control technologies are expected to change the identity of firms.Originality/valueThis paper contributes to the management control and family business literatures because it uncovers how management control technologies are calibrated in reference to family firms’ dual identities. It shows that calculative, family-centric and procedural management controls are used to professionalize the firm and strengthen its business identity as well as to reduce the negative effects of the family identity. The paper also illustrates how the liberating force of using pragmatic and minimal control technologies can serve to give prominence to the family identity.
Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jun 19, 2017