Family Businesses as a Phenomenon Insights – Overviews

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The exhibition 'Family Businesses as a Phenomenon: Insights – Overviews' (11.07.2016 – 29.01.2017) approaches the subject of family businesses from a novel perspective – allowing business figures and their families to “speak” for themselves: letters, memoirs, wills, and business protocols from the late 18th century to the 1960s afford insights into the motives behind the actions of businesspeople and their family members. In 25 very personal stories, taken from 13 different family businesses, the goals, desires, and obligations of the various stakeholders come to life and prove to be surprisingly contemporary.

Almost 90% of all businesses are family-run. Yet while the family-operated business is commonplace, it seems to hold great fascination. How else to explain the continuing success of Deutsche Dynastien, a German TV series devoted to German dynasties that often features entrepreneurial families and their companies?

But there’s more than just the obvious interest in history and destiny. The complex phenomenon of the family-run business is also an object of research for political and business economists, historians, as well as for psychologists and sociologists. This is because the distinctive feature of the family-run business is the inseparable union of two systems that function according to completely different rules: the family, as private domain, where emotion dominates; and the company, subject to the laws of the market. Those who run family businesses thus make decisions in the context of interdependent and conflicting priorities that bring with them opportunities and freedoms while also harbouring pitfalls and clashes. Reconciling a respect for tradition and a capacity for innovation is, in any case, part of the day-to-day routine at almost all of these companies.

This exhibition (11.07.2016 – 29.01.2017) approaches the subject from the perspective of business figures and their families. Letters, diaries, wills, and business protocols afford insights into the specific motives behind their actions. The goals, desires, and obligations of the stakeholders come to life and take on a surprising relevance, as do the action patterns and interdependencies, values, and decision-making processes that have persisted over time and across generations. The following firms, from a wide variety of sectors, join C&A in the exhibition as representative examples of internationally-operating large and medium-sized enterprises: Bagel (printing and publishing), Brügelmann (spinning), Falke (spinning and knitwear), Harkort (trade and metalworking), Hohner (musical instruments), De Kuyper (spirits and liqueurs), Roeckl (gloves and accessories), Steiff (toys), Stollwerck (confectionery), Ullstein (printing and publishing), Von der Heydt (banking), Warburg (banking).

A two-volume publication will appear in conjunction with the exhibition. The first volume examines this new way of looking at the phenomenon of the family-run company, one based on actual business figures from the 18th to the 20th centuries. The second volume provides an in-depth overview of the subject from the perspective of scholars from a variety of disciplines.

Margarete steiff bei der arbeit  archiv der margarete steiff gmbh

Margarete Steiff bei der Arbeit

Portr%c3%a4t von august bagel  gemalt von ernst bosch im jahr 1880  bagel privatbesitz  foto roman m%c3%a4rz

August Bagel, by Ernst Bosch,1880

Pokal der familie stollwerck  angefertigt 1905  privatbesitz familie stollwerck foto roman m%c3%a4rz

Pokal der Familie Stollwerck, angefertigt 1905

Bildnis von franz anton und bernhardine falke rohen  um 1920  privatbesitz familie falke

Portrait of Franz Anton and Bernhardine Falke-Rohen, ca.1920

Brief von carl harkort an seinen bruder johann caspar v. vom 30.04.1815  stiftung westf%c3%a4lisches wirtschaftsarchiv dortmund  n18 nr. 140 24  foto roman m%c3%a4rz

Letter of Carl Harkort to his brother Johann Caspar V., 30.04.1815

Portr%c3%a4taufnahme von hermann gerhard brenningmeijer  draiflessen collection  mettingen

Hermann Gerhard Brenningmeijer

Protokoll aus der nachlassakte roeckl  staatsarchiv m%c3%bcnchen

Protokoll aus der Nachlassakte Roeckl

Portr%c3%a4t des bankiers max m. warburg  der %c3%9cbersee club e. v.  hamburg  foto henning rogge

Max M. Warburg

Konvolut mit dem testament von johannes de kuyper %c2%a9  collectie stadsarchief rotterdam  foto roman m%c3%a4rz

Konvolut mit dem Testament von Johannes de Kuyper

Gesch%c3%a4fts%c3%bcbergabe feier der matt. hohner harmonikafabrik  trossinger zeitung 19.09.1900  foto roman m%c3%a4rz

Geschäftsübergabe-Feier der Matt. Hohner Harmonikafabrik, Trossinger Zeitung 19.09.1900

Die br%c3%bcderkonferenz. bildnis der ullstein br%c3%bcder  axel springer se  berlin  foto roman m%c3%a4rz

Die Brüderkonferenz. Bildnis der Ullstein-Brüder

Die wuppertaler bankiersfamilie von der heydt um 1895  von der heydt museum  wuppertal

Family Von der Heydt, ca. 1895

Gesuch von johann gottfried br%c3%bcgelmann an den kurf%c3%bcsten  landesarchiv nrw   abteilung rheinland   j%c3%bclich berg ii nr. 1859

Gesuch von Johann Gottfried Brügelmann an den Kurfüsten

D%c3%bcffel pressebild by katja von d%c3%bcffel

John von Düffel