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Research Seminar Series - The Importance of Relational Competency in Businesses Owned by Married or Cohabiting Couples


Existing family business literature pays little attention to a relational approach to understanding the birth and development of a first-generation family business. This paper explores the dynamic of intimacy and relational connection that underpins married or cohabiting couples (copreneurs) who have started a business. Such businesses are based on the balancing of their gendered and fragmented lives that move between the public and private. The main contribution, through a relational lens, illustrates that little is written on the articulation of the struggle taking place between the copreneurs desire to perform equal roles in the business and home. The study is based on an interpretative analysis of the phenomena arising from eight such businesses with sixteen participants. It highlights how many of the couples articulate their intention to create an alternative, relational approach to venture creation and development. This study will show that this development is based on a desire to work with, and in connection to their intimate other. It explores the gendered nature of this work and how ‘women’s work’ (Gatrell, 2008) has been extended into the copreneurs sphere culminating in performing relationally embedded entrepreneurship. This study will show that women perform most of the relational labour in the businesses whereby the individual, marital and communal needs of the family and business are interwoven for the women, and the men attempt to move away from a more traditional, patriarchal role in the ‘doing of’ the couples working day. This paper will show how this leads to a different approach to entrepreneuring. This presents an alternative perspective on current understanding of what constitutes entrepreneurship based on an individualistic, heroic male model (Salganicoff, 1990, Hamilton, 2006). This paper will explore the copreneurs phenomena through relational cultural lens (Fletcher, 2012) to shine a light on the early stages of a potential family business.

Dr Angela Carradus (University of Leeds)