Abstract

During sensitive periods, firms make decisions and develop characteristics, which, despite time and environmental change, have lasting impact. Scholars refer to this process as imprinting and use this perspective to explain the behavior of industries, organizations, groups, and individuals. In this manuscript, we examine imprinting in the family firm, where it may be particularly important and unique because of the distinct aspects of the family firm. The purpose of our study is to examine when and how the three elements of imprinting (sensitive periods, stamping, and persistence) occur in family firms. We address three specific questions: (a) Beyond founding, what are the sensitive periods in family firms wherein imprinting occurs? (b) During these sensitive periods, what elements of the organizational form are imprinted in family firms? and (c) Do these imprinted elements of the family firm form persist across generations?

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