Impact of the ‘Family-firm life cycle’ on the Management Processes Involved in Sustainable Glasshouse Horticulture
In Flanders glasshouse vegetables and ornamental plants are typically produced at family businesses. At this type of businesses the objectives and long-term firm developments are influenced by the so called ‘family-firm life cycle’. In many cases the firm shows a life cycle that corresponds with the life cycle of the entrepreneur. The objective of the paper is to test the hypothesis that the ‘family-firm life cycle’ will have an impact on the personal and business characteristics, objectives and the quality of the management processes involved in sustainable glasshouse horticulture. As sustainable horticulture integrates the three P’s (People, Planet, Profit) special attention is paid to human resource, environmental and financial management. Data for the research are based on interviews and accounting data at 138 glasshouse holdings situated in Flanders (northern part of Belgium). The results reveal that the glasshouse managers in the different phases of the ‘family-firm life cycle’ show significant differences in age, education level and numbers of seminars attended. The economic dimension, modernity of durable goods, solvency and investment pattern of the firms in the different stages of the ‘family-firm life cycle’ also show significant differences. At the older businesses the availability of a successor has an important influence. The results confirm the hypothesis that the objectives and the quality of the management processes involved in environmental, human resource and financial management are dependent on the phase in the ‘family-firm life cycle’. In the early stages firm managers are more ambitious and attach a higher importance to the management processes involved in sustainable development. In the later stages the availability of a successor has an important influence. Unexpectedly no significant influence of the phase in the ‘family-firm life cycle’ on the income obtained per familial labour unit is found. The insights derived from this research have important implications both for research and practice. They can enable glasshouse growers and advisers to take and/or support correct decisions and may help policy makers to differentiate on the base of the ‘family-firm life cycle’.
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