Culture in Family-Owned Enterprises: Recognizing and Leveraging Unique Strengths

Daniel Denison, Colleen Lief, John L. Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

198 Scopus citations


Through years of consulting experience and culture research, a fuller picture of family firms began to emerge. It became increasingly clear that family business sustainability and accomplishment were rooted in something deeper, something beyond superficial explanation. Belief in the innate value and uniqueness of family business culture drove collaboration on this project between the disciplines of family business and organizational behavior. The goal was to critically examine family business culture and performance relative to nonfamily firms. The Denison Organizational Culture Survey, a cultural assessment tool that has linked corporate culture to financial performance, was administered to a sample of 20 family businesses and 389 nonfamily businesses, allowing us to compare their cultures. The results showed that the corporate cultures of family enterprises were more positive than the culture of firms without a family affiliation. Family enterprises scored higher on all 12 dimensions of the assessment tool. Despite the small sample, several of these differences were statistically significant. This suggests that family firms perform better because of who they are. In addition, recent research that shows they also perform better because of what they do strategically. Their histories and shared identities provide a connectedness to time-tested core values and standards of behavior that lead to bottom-line success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-70
Number of pages10
JournalFamily Business Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Finance


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