Should family firms internationalize? Evidence from the Survey of Business Owners



The purpose of this study was to explore the characteristics and performance of family-owned firms with internationalization. We were motivated to determine if there were significant differences between family-owned firms with internationalization and other firm types, specifically, family-owned firms without internationalization and non-family-owned firms. The study draws on the Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners (SBO) Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS). SBO response variables regarding owner demographics, business acquisition, business context, and a number of business performance outcome measures were the outcome variables of interest in this study. A comparison of means was applied to test whether or not there were differences in response variables across the family-owned and non-family-owned firm types. The results indicated that family-owned firms with internationalization, on average, had lower business closures and higher sales than the other firm types, and that firms with internationalization were more efficient in terms of sales per employee and sales per payroll. This study contributes to understanding the characteristics and performance between family-owned and non-family-owned firms in conjunction with those that internationalize and those that did not internationalize. A novel feature of the study experimental design was the incorporation of primary owner characteristics and whether there were any business acquisition, attribute, and performance correlations. The findings suggest practical implications for business growth strategy with regards to exporting, establishing international operations, or outsourcing business functions out of the USA. The study concludes with a discussion of the findings and offers potential future research directions.

Author Biographies

  • Mark D. Heileman, Rollins College

    Dr. Mark D. Heileman is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Business at Rollins College. He earned his PhD in Industrial Engineering and Management Systems from the University of Central Florida and is a Registered Professional Engineer. Prior to joining academia, he worked with three different startup businesses. His teaching and research interests include operations and supply chain management.

  • Timothy L. Pett, Rollins College

    Dr. Timothy L. Pett is an Associate Professor and Chairman in the Department of Business at Rollins College. He received a PhD in Strategic Management form the University of Memphis.  His teaching and research interests deal with small and medium-sized businesses, family businesses as well as entrepreneurs. He has published in numerous journal articles and presented at international conferences.







How to Cite

Should family firms internationalize? Evidence from the Survey of Business Owners. (2018). Journal of Small Business Strategy (archive Only), 28(1), 1-13.