As we are ALL already looking forward to the next IFERA 2023 conference in Krakow, we decided to share with you some initial insights taken from a conversation we have had with Wojciech Czakon, professor of strategic management at Jagiellonian University in Krakow and, together with Karolina Mania, one of the IFERA 2023 conference chairs.
What will be the main theme of IFERA 2023? What are your expectations about the conference?
We started thinking about a theme for IFERA 2023 roughly three years ago and it hasn’t changed since then. The core idea is that there are paradoxes in family businesses as a field of research and those paradoxes have been investigated all along since the inception of the field, but from time to time is a good idea to refocus on them. Our aim is not to revolutionize the field but to follow an incremental path, focusing the conversation on tensions and ambiguities within the field, both from a theoretical and empirical stance. From my perspective, what I find particularly intriguing is that family businesses apparently have a capacity to find the right balance and harmoniously combine the family and the business systems, being able to successfully live through such paradoxes. As the main topic of the conference is centered around the idea of paradoxes and paradoxical thinking, we expect to encourage our community to address paradoxes and ambiguities in family businesses.
The theme sounds very intriguing. Overall, what do you expect will be the main takeaways that our community will bring home from the conference?
Well, I think that there are few questions that need to be addressed, and if we are successful in addressing at least part of them, that would be already an impressive takeaway. First, I don’t believe that we, as a community of scholars, have a comprehensive view of the sources of paradoxes that would be specific to family businesses. So, we should focus on better understanding the underlying sources of paradoxes in family firms.
The second potential takeaway, I would say, is a bit more counterintuitive. When you hear the term paradox indeed, it is usually linked to some sort of threat or something that may have a negative impact on the business. However, I believe that paradoxes or tensions between competing demands may turn out to be positive. Therefore, I think that a second takeaway that would be very valuable to the whole community of family business scholars is to have a more comprehensive view of paradoxes as something to benefit from. Then clearly the big question would be: “how can family firms leverage on the positive potential that paradoxes hold?”.
As our community of family business scholars is traditionally very linked to practitioners and family business owners, how do you believe these takeaways will then be translated into practical advice?
I believe that many businesses are currently suffering from paradoxes and ambiguities. For instance, in this specific historical moment, we must face many challenges at the same time, such as the food crisis, the security crisis, the energy crisis. I think that practitioners are looking towards our community of researchers to better frame and cope more successfully with ambiguities in order to find their ways through this difficult historical time. Additionally, I believe that we should realize that we have an important role in making family businesses realize and exploit their extraordinary capacities when they face ambiguities and paradoxes.
The Polish culture that we will experience for few days during IFERA conferences will for sure be very inspiring. What do you believe are the specificities regarding family firms in Poland that are worth examining?
It should be considered that family businesses in Poland are all quite young due to the communist system that governed until 1990s. Therefore, on the one hand, you will observe many successful first-generation family firms while, on the other hand, you will see that most of them are facing the succession challenge in this precise moment. This peculiar situation can really provide inspirations and interesting insights for the community of scholars who will visit us.
For this reason, we have invited to the conference a very successful family business from Poland. This company is present all over the word with its product, including Russia and Ukraine. What I believe is relevant is that this business is coping with extreme challenges and is a first-hand witness and actor that is coping with this tragic political and economic situation. So, though the speeches that we are planning, we may obtain other interesting insights on how family firms deal with political and economic turmoil.
Last but not least, can you give us a preview of some entertaining activities in Krakow?
Yes, I will mention something both serious and entertaining at the same time. One of the oldest family businesses in Poland is actually located in Krakow on the main square, it’s a restaurant with 700 years of history. From an academic perspective, it can be considered as an example of longevity in a country characterized by dramatic historical periods. But from an entertaining perspective, this is just one of hundreds of restaurants and bars located in the vibrant city of Krakow.