I’m Tanja Leppäaho (previously Kontinen). I lead a research project on international family enterprises, here abbreviated as IFE. The project is based in LUT University, and it will last until 2022. I also lead the spin off of the project, International family firms: global approach.
My academic path in a nutshell
I started writing my doctoral thesis in 2008, defending it publicly in 2011 at the University of Jyväskylä. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey of writing my work on the internationalization pathways of family firms, findings myself in the middle of several international conferences and research visits, too. In addition to several international conferences each year, I was fortunate to finalize my doctoral thesis at the University of Adelaide, Australia.
Currently, I work as Research Fellow, a prestigious grant (with a 4-percent acceptance rate in 2019) funded by the Academy of Finland; hold a tenured Professorship in Growth entrepreneurship and act as Vice Director for LBM Doctoral School, LUT University, Finland. I have visited EMLyon Business School and Lancaster University Management School during the IFE project.
Previously I worked in a tenure track in international business and entrepreneurship at the University of Jyväskylä in between 2014 and 2017 and as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh Business School, UK in between 2012 and 2016. In line with my current IFE project “Building Theory on the family business internationalization process” running in 2017-2022, my core areas of interest are the internationalization process of firms through times, networking and family ownership. According to Pukàll and Calabro (2014), I am the leading scholar on family firm internationalization on a global scale.
My list of publications can be found through Orcid, Google Scholar and the project pages. I have published in various journals including Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Family Business Review, Journal of Small Business Management, Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, and International Business Review. I have supervised five doctoral theses, visited several leading universities, given speeches in recognized societal-level organizations and events, and among others been granted, together with Professor Sarah Jack, the best paper award by the leading conference in entrepreneurship, Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference. I have also co-edited the first ever Handbook, Palgrave Handbook of Family Firm Internationalization (published early 2021). Please see information on the academic outcomes of the project on the Outcomes section.
Brief self-narrative from my childhood up until the Master’s Degrees
I grew up in a family firm in a rural area and lived a simple life helping out my parents at the farm, but also playing instruments, singing and doing athletics. While I learned to appreciate a simple life in the countryside, I became extremely interested in foreign languages and cultures and at school I selected as many languages as possible, getting my baccalaureat in 1997.
In my first university degree, Master of Arts (2002) from the University of Jyväskylä, I studied English language and culture, Roman philology (French and other Roman languages and cultures), German language and culture, and Nordic philology (Swedish) – and some Latin and Italian – and graduated as a language teacher. During my studies, I spent time working and studying abroad – in Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Sweden – becoming even more fascinated by and also familiar with foreign languages and cultures. I especially enjoyed observing how people meet people from other cultures.
While I liked my work as a language teacher I did for a couple of years, I knew I was meant for something else and studied entrepreneurship and marketing, graduating as Master of Economics in 2004, also from the University of Jyväskylä. With my interest, I wanted to study how entrepreneurs internationalize and inspired by my Professor Matti Koiranen, I started studying family enterprises in special for my Master’s thesis. While I became more familiar with family entrepreneurs and their internationalization narratives, I was more and more fascinated by the hard and innovative work they pursue generation after generation, as well as their persistency and human nature among others.
I also saw how important family enterprises are to communities and to Finland and Europe as a whole. I wanted to understand their internationalization more in-depth and even more longitudinally and find ways of making them more effective. That is how I started writing my PhD thesis on the same topic in 2008, after my Professor Matti Koiranen asked me for the third time. The first two times I was interested but unable to start, since the first time I had just given birth to my dear son and the second time I was just about to give birth to my sweet daughter – well, family issues here.
Brief CV of Tanja Leppäaho (Kontinen)
2011 PhD (Econ.), University of Jyväskylä (JSBE), Finland; Thesis title “Internationalization pathways of family SMEs“; graded 5/5; Supervisor Matti Koiranen
2004 MSc in Economics, University of Jyväskylä (JSBE), Finland
2002 Master of Arts, University of Jyväskylä, Faculty of Humanities, Finland
Professor of Growth Entrepreneurship and Co-Head for Doctoral School, School of Business and Management, LUT University, Finland
Research Fellow, a prestigious personal grant (1.9.2017-30.9.2022) from the Academy of Finland. Project name: Building theory on the family business internationalization process: pathwyas and networks in focus
2019 Visiting Researcher, Lancaster University Management School, UK (two months)
2018 Visiting Professor, EMLyon Management School, France (two months)
2014-2017 Tenure track Professor, University of Jyväskylä (JSBE), Finland
2012-2016 Senior Lecturer, University of Edinburgh Business School, UK
2008-2013 Senior Assistant, University of Jyväskylä (JSBE), Finland
2010 Visiting Researcher, University of Adelaide, Australia (two months)
FELLOWSHIPS AND AWARDS
2017-2022: Grant of 604 842€; Academy of Finland (grant number 308667)
2017: Bertarelli Family Best Paper Award from BCERC (Babson College), USA, for Leppäaho, T. & Jack, S. (2016). “Imprinting, embeddedness and social network ties in the internationalization of small- and medium-sized family enterprises”.
2017: Best Paper Award from the 8th BAMDE Conference, 6-9 June 2017, Varna, Bulgaria, for Leppäaho, T., Jack, S., Arenius, P., & Paavilainen-Mäntymäki, E. (2017). “Getting Embedded for and during Internationalization”.
2017: #1 most downloaded article in Family Business Review in 2016 for Leppäaho, T., Plakoyiannaki, E. & Dimitratos, P. (2016) “The case study in family business: analysis of current research practices and recommendations”
2018: Nominee for Copenhagen Business School Prize at European International Business Academy 2018 conference for Paavilainen-Mäntymäki, E., Leppäaho T., & Metsola, J. (2018). “Fear for Failure and Need for Longetivity – Internationalization Process Tensions within Family Businesses”.
2012: Best Paper Award, International Council for Small Business Conference, New Zealand, for Kontinen, T. & Kansikas, J. (2012). “Developmental phases in the foreign market entry of family SMEs”
2012: Award for excellent research articles in 2011 by JSBE and Kauppalaisseuran säätiö, University of Jyväskylä
SUPERVISION OF GRADUATE STUDENTS AND POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWS
Number of Postdocs: 4 / PhD Students: 5 / Master Students: 30
1st supervisor (years):
2nd supervisor (years):
- Witt, A., University of Edinburgh Business School (2013-2015): Internationalization trajectories of global hidden champions
- Doctoral level: Introduction to Doctoral Studies 2019-2020, LUT University, Finland; Business Theory and Thought 2020, Oulu University, Finland
- Master level: Research Methods in Entrepreneurship and International Business 2020-2021, LUT University, Finland; Melting Pot of entrepreneurial competencies 2019-2020, LUT University, Finland; International Business 2012-2017, JSBE, Finland; International entrepreneurship 2009-2017, JSBE, Finland; Business Strategies for International Growth 2013, UEBS, UK; Master seminar 2010-2021, JSBE and LUT, Finland
ORGANISATION OF SCIENTIFIC MEETINGS
- Co-chair for International Family Enterprise Research Academy Conference (IFERA 2014), LUT University, Finland, June 24 –27, 2014.
- Chair for “Family firm internationalization” track at AIB-UKI conference, April 2021
- Chair for “Family firm internationalization” track at Vasa IB conference in 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021
INVITED PRESENTATIONS TO INTERNATIONALLY ESTABLISHED CONFERENCES AND ADVANCED SCHOOLS
- Invited panel member of “Symposium on temporality and entrepreneurial opportunities” at the world leading AOM conference in August 2020
- Invited keynote speech “Family firms in international entrepreneurship” in an International Symposium on International Entrepreneurship at the University of Greenwich, July 2019
- Presentation at Lancaster University Management School Research Seminar, UK, November 2019
- Presentation at Leeds University, International Business Research Seminar, UK, October 2019
- Presentation at University of Edinburgh Business School Research Seminar, UK, October 2019
2019 – 2021 Member of Doctoral School Committee, LUT University, Finland
2014 – 2017 Member of AACSB Accreditation Committee, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
2013 – 2014 Director of Master’s Degree Programme in International Business and Emerging Markets, University of Edinburgh Business School, UK
2012 Director of Master’s Degree Programme in International Business and Entrepreneurship, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
MEMBERSHIPS OF SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES
2020 – Member, MISUM network, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden
2013 – Member, Academy of Management
2010 – Member, Academy of International Business
2008 – Member, Advisory Board for Research, Family Firm Institute, Finland