Boards of directors in family firms : Their functions and borders

Abstract: This dissertation explores and develops our conception of the board in familyfirms. The family firm is a specific type of organization in terms of corporategovernance, since it encompasses both the family and business systems.Typically, family members are present as owners, but also on the board and inthe management of the firm, creating, among other things, ambiguity as toroles. The board is thus not the only point of contact between owners andmanagers in these firms. Moreover, family firms exhibit a goal orientationtowards non-financial goals, in addition to financial ones. These characteristicsimply specific conditions for the board of directors in family firms.To fulfill its purpose, this dissertation investigates different aspects of the boardof directors in four papers. The point of departure is a model that encompassesthe family and its intentions, board composition, board processes, boardfunctions, and outcomes. Different methodological approaches are used for thedifferent papers, since the methods chosen were determined by the researchquestions. The constituent papers of this dissertation comprise a conceptualstudy, as well as survey and case studies.The overall conclusion of the dissertation is that the role of the board in familyfirms can differ from the role of the board in other types of firms due toambiguity stemming from the coexistence of family and firm considerations.This can manifest itself in the board taking on functions other than the usualones, such as participating in the succession process. Moreover, the compositionof family board members can affect what functions the board emphasizes.Furthermore, overlap in the roles of family members can result in boardfunctions being performed in other domains than the board meeting,highlighting the complexity of what a board is. Policy makers and externaldirectors of family firms need to understand the family firm characteristics thatinfluence the board before making recommendations as to the best boardcomposition. In conclusion, we cannot rely solely on traditional conceptions ofthe board of directors when it concerns the board in family firms.