International Family Enterprise

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"Enabling Internationalization Excellence for Family Enterprises"

IFE, 2017


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All the family firms of the IFE project are operating in the international marketplace. Many of them have started implementing digital solutions for sales and communication, but also production. (Please see the previous blog for this discussion.)

Digital platforms such as eBay, Amazon, Facebook, and Alibaba provide with internationalization opportunities for small firms – especially if they are seeking early internationalization. But digital tools are an essential part of today’s business also outside of the above-mentioned platforms.

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The findings of IFE project indicate that in the digital era, the innovations of Finnish family firms related to international sales management have concerned:

1. Digitalization of communication and sales: keeping in touch in relation to both business and personal matters via culturally bound digital communication tools: While WhatsApp works in many countries, for instance in China, it is impossible to communicate successfully without WeChat.

“Many Finnish firms are not competitive in China, since they do not understand that it is necessary to communicate via WeChat. Only the very final sales agreement is then sent via email. It is general that you ask about personal matters and then switch to sales discussions. It has been quite a change. My father kept sending emails, but now the inbox is almost empty. But I explained to him that do not worry, I send messages elsewhere.” (Newly started 3rd generation family CEO)

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New Study on International Networking Strategy of Family Firms

Tanja has together with Professors Sarah Jack and Emmanuella Plakoyiannaki published a new study in British Journal of Management. It discusses the networking strategies for internationalization among family firms. It is a qualitative study that follows an abductive reasoning and develops a typology. This is an open access article thanks to my Academy of Finland funding. In addition to the attachment, you can find it here:


The article deals with how bifurcation bias might explain the heterogeneity of family firms in their international networking and introduces a new network mechanism, network termination, aside structural holes and network closure mechanism to explain what goes on in networking in the international arena.

Some family firms (conqueror and explorer) clearly follow the same strategy as SMEs in general, while others (trotters and preservers) are more cautious.

I think the article would suit as part of courses for Master-level classes in International Business/Strategy, International Entrepreneurship/Growth and Family Business (Strategy). If you are missing material in your courses, please consider including this one. We have also written a teaching and learning guide to make its involvement in courses as easy as possible (attached and also linked below).



When a crisis hits hard and you are leading a long-enduring, cherished family business, how do you react? Do you seek shelter and try to preserve the business, or do you go out “all guns blazing” to innovate and renew the business? Indeed, on a general note, a crisis can act as either a catalyst of or an inhibitor to innovation.

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Second Book Launch Event: India and emerging markets as focal points

The Centre for Family Managed Business, S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai (India) invites you to a virtual book release event of the first ever handbook on family firm internationalization “The Palgrave Handbook of Family Firm Internationalization” edited by Professors Tanja Leppäaho and Sarah Jack. The event takes place on June 4, 2021 (Friday) between 18:30 p.m.- 20:00 p.m. (IST)/15:00-16:30 (CEST).

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Book release event

We are pleased to have the book release ceremony for the first-ever Handbook of family firm internationalization, edited by Tanja Leppäaho and Sarah Jack, on the 15th of April at 3 pm CET. The event will be organized online and the program consists of commentaries from the leading experts of family business, four presentations on book chapters representing different sections of the book, free discussion and comments and questions, and a brief introduction to and “an official release ceremony” of the book by the editors.

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Turning networks into social legacy

Like entrepreneurship, the internationalization of firms has been a significant phenomenon in respect of the global economy and directions of development during the past two or more centuries. The internationalization of business and entrepreneurship in Finland has been in a crucial role of the country’s economic and societal development as a whole, like in many other small and open economy.

For Finland, the development from being a developing country in 1800 to becoming one of the welfare nations in the world of today was bafflingly rapid. Exports and internationalization of the forest industry in the end of 1800s and the turn of the 1900s was one of the main scenes offsetting international development of Finnish business in the future.

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Online event: Keys to the internationalization success of family firms

A Finnish-language event for family entrepreneurs – sorry, not in English this time!

Tule kuulemaan tuoreita maailmanluokan tutkimustuloksia, menestyneen perheyrittäjän puheenvuoro ja asiantuntijoiden näkemyksiä siitä kuinka perheomisteisuudesta voi tehdä kansainvälistymisessä kilpailuedun!

Tilaisuus järjestetään Zoomissa keskiviikkona 17.2.2021 klo 9-10. Liity helposti Zoom-webinaariin tästä ja kutsu kaverisikin mukaan. Tilaisuuden järjestää yhteistyössä LUT-yliopisto ja Perheyritysten liitto.

Socioemotional wealth – a wound or a healing cream to the internationalization of family SMEs?

What do small, resin-based medical and treatment products manufacturing Repolar and me have in common? Both have combined strong research and business – Repolar for the growth and internationalization of small family firm and I for building academic career based on research on the internationalization of small family firms. According to “Family Firm” magazine’s article (published on the 21th of September 2020 by Riitta Saarinen from Finnish Family Firm Association), an important growth factor for Repolar was when one of the co-founders, Arno Sipponen, did his dissertation on the use of resin in wound care in 2013. Tomorrow, Friday 4th of December, I will have the defense of my dissertation, which hopefully helps small and medium-sized family enterprises (family SMEs), such as Repolar, internationalize better, when we consider a key concept for family firms: socioemotional wealth (SEW). SEW encompasses noneconomic and affective aspects family members value and seek to preserve in their family business, even at the expense of economic interests. Hence, it can become a wound especially in smaller family firms, but research is insufficient. SEW can also be a wholesome resource through the commitment, long-term orientation and reliability of the family in the business.

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