The question of crisis resistance and resilience of long-lived family businesses became particularly volatile with the beginning of the Corona crisis. In this context the project “Narratives of Survival” was launched focusing on the prevailing narratives to find out how crisis situations have been dealt with and narrated by long-lived German family firms.
Based on narrative interviews, the empirical study of transgenerational entrepreneurship was first approached in an open-ended manner. The interview guideline addresses different types of crises and asks about resources, insights, regulations and explanations for the longevity of the family businesses.
In the qualitative content analysis, 12 guiding narratives were pointed out, providing information about the self-narratives of these entrepreneurial families which revolve around the three themes of self-image, familiarity and strategy.
This study provides information about the secrets of longevity of four very old family firms. The narratives revealed that strengthening the identity of the entrepreneurial family and employees of the family business as well as generating a shared reality, supports constructive handling of challenges and crises. This study contributes to theory by answering calls for narrative analysis in family firms and to practice by showing what younger companies can learn from long-lived family businesses.