Firm Families, Family Firms: Pramodita Sharma on Family Business Review

Journal Interview, July 2012

Family  Business Review

In a recent analysis of Essential Science Indicators (a subset of Clarivate Analytics Web of Knowledge), the journal Family Business Review was named a Rising Star in the field of Economics & Business. Its current record in this field includes 150 papers cited a total of 1,119 times between January 1, 2001 and April 30, 2012.

Family Business Review is published by the Family Firm Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. The journal’s Editor in Chief is Pramodita Sharma, who is currently Sanders Professor for Family Business at the School of Business Administration, University of Vermont, as well as a visiting scholar at Babson College.

Below, Sharma answers a few questions about Family Business Review and its growing profile.

SW: Did you expect Family Business Review to become highly cited, or is this surprising to you?

Yes, I’ve always expected FBR to become highly cited. This is because of the 3Rs of research: rigor, relevance, and reach.

  1. Relevance: The growing awareness that family enterprises form the large majority of our economic world and impact our social world equally deeply;
  2. Rigor: The increasing rigor of family enterprise research published in FBR. Each member of our editorial team is an exceptional scholar as are the members of our Advisory and Review boards. Together, these gatekeepers raise expectations in the field, and authors are responding well to this challenge.
  3. Reach: Issues studied by scholars published in FBR are of interest to scholars, advisors, and practitioners around the world. Last year, FBR was distributed in 177 countries.

SW: How would you account for the growing citation rate of FBR?

Over the past few years, our editorial team has paid careful attention to the 3Rs of research. A further interpretation of FBR's growth in citation is that it is an illustration of simple business fundamentals:

  1. FBR meets an unfulfilled need: Management research has largely ignored the study of family enterprises that have been the core focus of FBR since its first issue in 1988.
  2. FBR is a great product: Research published in it focuses on interesting research questions, employs rigorous methods, and has implications both for theory and practice.
  3. Strategic positioning in a growth industry: While many leading journals in management today are featuring family-enterprise research through special issues, articles in FBR provide foundational literature upon which these articles build. Moreover, topics discussed in FBR are of interest to scholars in family studies, accounting, and marketing. In the last few years, FBR featured special issues on each of these topics. These issues have proven helpful in increasing interest in the field while expanding its boundaries and impact.

SW: Would you give us a brief history of the journal?

FBR is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. This editorial in the celebratory March 2012 issue provides a nice history.

“Interest in family enterprises is likely to continue not only within management, economics, and finance...but also in business disciplines such as accounting, operations, and marketing...

Further background is provided in this article, in which six leading management scholars share their expectations for the journal and the field of family business studies. As noted by Michael Hitt (Texas A&M, former editor of Academy of Management Journal (AMJ), co-editor of Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal (SEJ), and member of FBR’s Advisory Board) in this article:

Family business as a research pursuit is ....going to blossom! It is blossoming right now and that will increase and that the field is at a precipice of the next step.... The future is very bright.

If you compare the progress with strategy, it took time, but when papers started to appear in broader discipline journals people started to take notice. And this is somewhat the same for entrepreneurship currently. Quality research, no matter the discipline, will assist greatly in gaining legitimacy of the field, and that is achieved by broadening the conversation into these outlets. It is how Strategic Management Journal (SMJ) evolved into a premier journal. It did not start off that way but once papers were hitting AMJ, Academy of Management Review, and Organization Science, SMJ was given a “lift along.” Arguably, FBR is in a similar position now.

SW: What historical factors have contributed to the success of FBR?

Visionary thinking of its founders; excellent editors and publishers throughout the years; and continuous significant support from its owner, the Family Firm Institute. And, perhaps, most of all, the focus of the journal is on issues important to the most prevalent form of organization in the world and over time: family enterprises.

SW: Have there been specific developments in the fields served by the journal that may have contributed?

A confluence of many factors has led to FBR’s rising impact. These include an increased number of scholars interested in the field, a superb editorial team, and advisory and review boards that work hard to ensure that every article gets developmental feedback while the quality of research accepted remains very high.

Also, in recent years our editorial team has developed some highly useful editorials that are judged by our readers to be very helpful.

Articles are processed very efficiently both by the editorial team and our publisher, SAGE. Articles appear online at a remarkable speed so that the accepted research is disseminated rapidly.

Conferences specific to family business studies such as the Family Enterprise Research Conference, International Family Enterprise Research Academy, Eiasm’s FB workshop, and the Theories of Family Enterprise enable gathering of scholars and rich development of their thoughts and ideas. Similarly, global projects, such as the Babson based project on Successful Transgenerational Entrepreneurial Practices (STEP) that spans over 43 institutions involving 200+ scholars around the world, further enable the development of the field. In turn, these efforts help FBR, the premier journal in the field.

Recent years have seen the addition of two journals focused on family enterprise study: the Journal of Family Business Strategy, and the Journal of Family Business Management. Growth of these journals further fuels interest in FBR.

FBR is the journal of the Family Firm Institute (FFI). Since its founding 26 years ago, FFI has been steadfast in its support for rigorous research on family enterprises through FBR, along with unpublished-paper and dissertation awards and, more recently, “Best Paper Published in FBR” and best-reviewer awards.

Practitioner support for FBR and family enterprise research is notable, too. One recent example is the Joe Goodman study through FFI, results of which appeared in a “conversation-changing” piece in the June 2012 issue.

The annual FFI conferences bring together scholars, advisors and some family enterprise operators. This helps in building the relevance of research undertaken and supports its reach as well.

All these factors work synergistically towards the development of family enterprise studies and the growing interest in FBR.

SW: What, in your view, is this journal’s main significance or contribution in the field of Economics & Business?

It focuses on issues that are of significant importance to family enterprises around the world!

SW: How do you see your field(s) evolving in the next few years?

Continued growth combined with an increased relevance and reach is how I envision family enterprise studies evolving over the next few years.

Interest in family enterprises is likely to continue not only within management, economics, and finance as it is currently being experienced, but also in business disciplines such as accounting, operations, and marketing that have been slow to attend to family firms. Moreover, I expect fields such as consulting, business history, and other divisions of the Academy of Management to start paying more attention to family enterprises.

Inspired by the desire to disseminate scientific research more effectively into the practitioner communities, FBR recently appointed an Assistant Editor whose sole focus is on dissemination of research published in FBR into different practitioner communities such as advisors, owners, managers, family members, and public policymakers as well. SAGE and FFI work closely with this editor to disseminate research findings.

SW: What role do you see for your journal?

FBR will continue to provide scientifically rigorous research focused on interesting questions important to the unique context of family enterprises.  Our editorial team, advisory board, and review board is packed with superb scholars who devote utmost attention to tasks related to FBR. So, the future is very bright indeed!End

Pramodita Sharma
Editor-in-Chief, Family Business Review
University of Vermont and Babson College



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