Copreneurial sustainability: optimizing structures in small and medium U.S. enterprises

Eisele, P 2011, Copreneurial sustainability: optimizing structures in small and medium U.S. enterprises, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Management, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Copreneurial sustainability: optimizing structures in small and medium U.S. enterprises
Author(s) Eisele, P
Year 2011
Abstract In the 40 years since dual-career households were inspired by the women’s movement, few studies have examined the long-term achievements of entrepreneurial couples (copreneurs) from start-up through maturity. This thesis explores and analyzes the structures created by copreneurs that optimize sustainability of the copreneurial enterprise. The enterprise “system” under study includes both the business and the life-partner relationship over 20+ years together (in business and marriage) in small and medium enterprises in the United States. To support the aim of the thesis, the following research question was derived from the literature review: What optimizing structures are created by copreneurs to achieve sustainability of both the business and the family?

The thesis comprises four phases of research:
1. Development of the Conceptual Model of the Copreneurial Enterprise;
2. Testing of the conceptual model;
3. Identification of optimizing structures; and
4. Development of the Model of Harmonized Copreneurial Enterprise Management.

The thesis follows a constructivist-interpretive (qualitative) research approach using a theoretical framework – The Conceptual Model of the Copreneurial Enterprise – based on seminal family business models and literature. The conceptual model was empirically tested with a sample of 10 couples (20 individuals) from four regions in the United States (East, Midwest, Southwest and West). Data collection included historical archive review, a business site visit, and in-depth face-to-face, phone and emailed interviews.

Two independent analyses were conducted based on the interview data: a manual theme-category analysis, producing 11 themes; and an NVivo software analysis, generating 40 nodes. The analyses were compiled in an Operationalization of the Conceptual Model of the Copreneurial Enterprise. The analysis of the empirical data produced comprehensive findings which were compared with family business, entrepreneurial and copreneurial literature. A Model of Harmonized Copreneurial Enterprise Management was developed from the findings.

The findings show that although copreneurs do not follow best practices, they achieve highly successful outcomes through harmonized management of business, family and individual domains. These outcomes are anchored in four foundational structures: (1) personal attributes (creativity, freedom, quality, commitment); (2) organizational elements (integrated goals, mutual respect, equality, trust, opportunistic thinking, checks and balances, synergy); (3) reciprocal relationships (career, marriage, family, business); and (4) enterprise culture (connection, harmony, equality, balance).

The four central structures create a foundation for growth and sustainability – profitable businesses, functional families (with marriage longevity), and individual development – with the Model of Harmonized Copreneurial Enterprise Management reflecting a holistic optimizing “system” structure underpinning successful, sustainable copreneurship.

This knowledge may be used to guide future research, develop educational programs for copreneurs, and inform couples in copreneurial enterprises (or those considering copreneurship) how to achieve sustainability and success.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Management
Keyword(s) Copreneurs
Family Business
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Created: Tue, 17 Feb 2015, 14:06:25 EST by Maria Lombardo
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