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Business Groups as an Organizational Model  

Asli M. Colpan and Alvaro Cuervo-Cazurra

Business groups are an organizational model in which collections of legally independent firms bounded together with formal and informal ties use collaborative arrangements to enhance their collective welfare. Among the different varieties of business groups, diversified business groups that exhibit unrelated product diversification under central control, and often containing chains of publicly listed firms, are the most-studied type in the management literature. The reason is that they challenge two traditionally held assumptions. First, broad and especially unrelated diversification have a negative impact on performance, and thus business groups should focus on a narrow scope of related businesses. Second, such diversification is only sustainable in emerging economies in which market and institutional underdevelopment are more common and where business groups can provide a solution to such imperfections. However, a historical perspective indicates that diversified business groups are a long-lived organizational model and are present in emerging and advanced economies, illustrating how business groups adapt to different market and institutional settings. This evolutionary approach also highlights the importance of going beyond diversification when studying business groups and redirecting studies toward the evolution of the group structure, their internal administrative mechanisms, and other strategic actions beyond diversification such as internationalization.


Business History in International Business  

Teresa da Silva Lopes

Historical research on the multinational enterprise has long been important in international business studies. When the discipline of international business first developed in the late 1950s, historical evidence was frequently used to build generalizations and propose theories. However, over time, that tradition eroded, as the discipline moved toward using more quantitative and econometric reasoning. International business and business history share important commonalities, such as the topics they address. These include: multinational patterns of international trade and foreign investment; the boundaries and competitiveness of the multinational enterprise; changes in organizational strategy and structure of multinational enterprises and the connections between the two; coordination and management of the activities of the multinational enterprise; impact of multinationals on knowledge and capital flows in host countries; and investment, resilience, and survival in high-risk environments. Nonetheless, the approaches followed can be quite distinct. While both disciplines consider the firm and other institutional forms as the unit of analysis, the way context and the environment are integrated in the analysis, the methodologies followed, the types of comparative analysis carried out, the temporal dimensions adopted, and the way in which theory is used are quite distinct. There are possible ways forward for international business history to be more integrated and provide new dimensions in international business studies. These include using history as a generator of theory to understand phenomena such as the origins of competitiveness and as a way to uncover phenomena that can be fully understood only after the situation has occurred, such as the impact of entrepreneurship on economic development; as a way to check false claims that certain phenomena is new; and to inform discussions on complex phenomena and grand challenges such as globalization and deglobalization, investment in high risk environments, and climate change.


Executive Education  

Rolv Petter Amdam

Executive education, defined as consisting of short, intensive, non-degree programs offered by university business schools to attract people who are in or close to top executive positions, is a vital part of modern management education. The rationale behind executive education is different from that of the degree programs in business schools. While business schools enroll students to degree programs based on previous exams, degrees, or entry tests, executive education typically recruits participants based on their positions—or expected positions—in the corporate hierarchy. While degree programs grade their students and award them degrees, executive education typically offers courses that do not have exams or lead to any degree. Executive education expanded rapidly in the United States and globally after Harvard Business School launched its Advanced Management Program in 1945. In 1970, around 50 university business schools in the United States and business schools in at least 43 countries offered intense executive education programs lasting from three to 18 weeks. During the 1970s, business schools that offered executive education organized themselves into an association, first in the United States and later globally. From the 1980s, executive education experienced competition from the corporate universities organized by corporations. This led the business schools to expand executive education in two directions: open programs that organized potential executives from a mixed group of companies, and tailor-made programs designed for individual companies. Despite being an essential part of the activities of business schools, few scholars have conducted research into executive education. Extant studies have been dominated by a focus on executive education in the context of the rigor-and-relevance debate that has accompanied the development of management education since the early 1990s. Other topics that are touched upon in research concern the content of courses, the appropriate pedagogical methods, and the effect of executive education on personal development. The situation paves the way for some exciting new research topics. Among these are the role of executive education in creating, maintaining, and changing the business elite, the effect of executive education on socializing participants for managerial positions, and women and executive education.


History of Japanese Labor and Production Management  

William M. Tsutsui

Tracking with Japan’s macroeconomic fortunes since World War II, global interest in Japanese management practices emerged in the 1950s with the start of Japan’s “miracle economy,” soared in the 1980s as Japanese industrial exports threatened manufacturers around the world, and declined after 1990 as Japan’s growth stalled. Japanese techniques, especially in labor and production management, fascinated Western scholars and practitioners in their striking divergence from U.S. and European conventions and their apparent advantages in creating harmonious, highly productive workplaces. Two reductive approaches to the origins of Japan’s distinctive management methods―one asserting they were the organic outgrowth of Japan’s unique cultural heritage, the other stressing Japan’s proficiency at emulating and adapting American models—came to dominate the academic and popular literature. As historical analysis reveals, however, such stylized interpretations distort the complex evolution of Japanese industrial management over the past century and shed little light on the current debates over the potential convergence of Japanese practices and American management norms. Key features of the Japanese model of labor management—“permanent” employment, seniority-based wages and promotions, and enterprise unions—developed between the late 1800s and the 1950s from the contentious interaction of workers, managers, and government bureaucrats. The distinctive “Japanese Employment System” that emerged reflected both employers’ priorities (for low labor turnover and the affirmation of managerial authority in the workplace) and labor’s demands (for employment security and respect as full members of the firm). Since 1990, despite the widespread perception that Japanese labor management is inefficient and inflexible by international standards, many time-honored practices have endured, as Japanese corporations have pursued adaptive, incremental change rather than precipitous convergence toward a more market-oriented American model. The distinguishing elements of Japanese production management—the “lean production” system and just-in-time manufacturing pioneered in Toyota factories, innovative quality-control practices—also evolved slowly over the first century of Japanese industrialization. Imported management paradigms (especially Frederick Taylor’s scientific management) had a profound long-term impact on Japanese shop-floor methods, but Japanese managers were creative in adapting American practices to Japan’s realities and humanizing the rigid structures of Taylorism. Japanese production management techniques were widely diffused internationally from the 1980s, but innovation has slowed in Japanese manufacturing in recent decades and Japanese firms have struggled to keep pace with latest management advances from the United States and Europe. In sum, the histories of Japanese labor and production management cannot be reduced to simple narratives of cultural determinism, slavish imitation, or inevitable convergence. Additional research on Japanese practices in a wide range of firms, industries, sectors, regions, and historical periods is warranted to further nuance our understanding of the complex evolution, diverse forms, and contingent future of Japanese management.


Immigrant Entrepreneurship: A Typology Based on Historical and Contemporary Evidence  

Hartmut Berghoff

Immigrant entrepreneurs are different, and they are everywhere. They can be unambiguously distinguished from entrepreneurs without a migration background. They operate under distinct conditions and respond to unique opportunities and challenges. They have specific motivational, economic, and social resources at their disposal, for example, ethnic solidarity and international networks. Their knowledge of languages and cultures, as well as the high pressure to integrate themselves into a new society, can be factors that stimulate entrepreneurship and innovation. It is hard to find countries with no immigrant entrepreneurs. In many places like the United States, Canada, or South East Asia, they play a substantial economic role. The ubiquity, dynamism, and significance of immigrant entrepreneurs has led to a spate of research projects since the 1990s, especially by economic sociologists and ethnologists, but also by management scholars and historians. On the basis of their work, the article distinguishes six different ideal types of immigrant entrepreneurs, even though these categories are neither clear-cut nor mutually exclusive. Necessity entrepreneurs react to blocked careers in other areas and often set up small, precarious businesses, out of which in exceptional cases more viable companies emerge. Diaspora merchants are part of commercial networks of people with the same ethnic background who live in foreign countries and trade with each other. Transnational entrepreneurs are not necessarily part of networks and do not always engage in mercantile activities. This category also encompasses individual actors and industrial activities. They are characterized by the ability to mobilize resources in several countries and facilitate activities between different countries. Middleman minorities stand between the majority society and third parties, often minorities. They fill niches that are left by indigenous businesses, which consider these areas as unattractive. Entrepreneurs in ethnic enclave economies live and work with their co-ethnics in neighborhoods defined by their group. Their main function is to cater to their own communities, often with ethnic products such as food or publications from their countries of origin. Refugee entrepreneurs leave their home country involuntarily, often driven out by violence and expropriation. In most cases their emigration is unprepared. Starting conditions in the country of destination are unfavorable. Conversely, the pressure for social integration is pronounced and can act as an impulse for self-employment. There are, however, cases in which refugees are consciously patronized or even summoned by the governments of the receiving countries, turning them into a highly privileged group.


Japanese Department Stores  

Rika Fujioka

Dry goods stores, the predecessors of Japanese department stores, were forced to modernize and change their business format after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, which led to the demise of their main customers. The largest dry goods store, Mitsukoshi, was the first to learn about modern retailing in the West, and it broke out of the mold of the traditional Japanese retailer in around 1900 in an effort to catch up with Western department stores. Other large dry goods stores were quick to follow its lead: they transformed into department stores and created their own “cathedrals of consumption” in the 1920s, to match those in the West. This new retail format strongly contributed to Japan’s economic growth and to the Westernization of the Japanese lifestyle. Despite numerous publications on the history of department stores, there has been little research on this transfer of Western department stores into a very different world: Japan. Although there are many studies on Japanese department stores in Japanese, focusing on how they were influenced by Western department stores, they are mostly subdivided on the basis of specific topics, such as levels of consumption in the interwar period or their economic impact during Japan’s period of high economic growth. The focus here is on the whole development process of department stores, bridging the gap between Western and Japanese studies on department stores. The first stage in the development of Japanese department stores was in the early 20th century, when Japanese retailers raced to catch up with Western department stores to become modern Western-style retailers themselves; the second stage was in the late 20th century, when these new Japanese stores continued developing along their own unique path in order to target the domestic market during the growth of the Japanese economy, introducing ready-to-wear clothing, luxury brands, and gift products. In this way, Japanese department stores succeeded in increasing their efficiency and establishing a more upmarket image. However, in exchange for this prosperity, department stores also gave up control of their sales floors to the wholesalers and reduced their own merchandising skills. After the economic bubble burst in 1991, Japanese department stores began to suffer from decreased sales and lack of control over the points of sale in their stores.


Labor History, Railroads, and Australia, 1880–1900  

Bradley Bowden

Previously, most attention to managerial attitudes to railroad labor during the late 19th century has focused on industrial conflict in the United States, most particularly the so-called Pullman Boycott, a national stoppage that brought much of the American rail network to a halt in May–July 1894. Most historians—Alfred Chandler, Richard White, Gabriel Kolko, and Shelton Stromquist, to name a few—have associated this pattern of American conflict with falling freight rates caused by excessive competition between the United States’ privately owned railroads. If this assumption is correct, then one would expect both of the problems—labor conflict and falling freight rates—would be absent in New World societies where railroads operated under public rather than private ownership. Among New World societies, public ownership of the railways was arguably most significant in Australia, a continental society almost identical in geographical size with the mainland United States. Here, railroads played a similar role in national development. Despite this variance in ownership, however, Australian railroads were beset with similar problems to the United States. Per-ton freight rates declined in like fashion. As in the United States, Australian railroad managers responded to falling freight rates by savage wage cuts and staff redundancies. The commonalities between Australia and the United States points to a common causal factor. It is argued that this common causal factor was the falling world price for grain, most particularly wheat, the London benchmark wheat price falling from US $1.92 in 1871 to US $0.81 in 1891.


Luxury Business  

Pierre-Yves Donzé and Rika Fujioka

The luxury business has been one of the fastest growing industries since the late 1990s. Despite numerous publications in management and business history, it is still difficult to have a clear idea of what “luxury” is, what the characteristics of this business are, and what the dynamics of the industry are. With no consensus on the definition of luxury among scholars and authors, the concept thus requires discussion. Luxury is commonly described as the high-end market segment, but the delimitation of the lower limit of this segment and its differentiation from common consumer goods are rather ambiguous. Authors use different terminology to describe products in this grey zone (such as “accessible luxury,” “new luxury,” and “prestige brands”). Despite the ambiguous definition of “luxury,” various companies have described their own businesses in this way, and consumers perceive them as producers of luxury goods and services. Research on luxury business has focused mostly on four topics: (1) the evolution of its industrial organization since the 1980s (the emergence of large conglomerates such as Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE or LVMH, and the reorganization of small and medium-sized enterprises); (2) production systems (the introduction of European companies into global value chains, and the role of country of origin labels and counterfeiting); (3) brand management (using heritage and tradition to build luxury brands); and (4) access to consumers (customization versus standardization). Lastly, new marketing communication strategies have recently been adopted by companies, namely customer relations via social media and the creation of online communities.


Maritime Business: A Paradigm of Global Business  

Gelina Harlaftis and Ioannis Theotokas

Maritime business is a paradigm of a global business. Its importance cannot be underrated as 90% of the world’s trade is at the present day carried by sea. In fact, the vast majority of the goods that form our daily lives depend upon the shipping industry. As ships sail in the seas and oceans of the world, and as ports are nowadays hidden away and not part of the everyday life of people in port cities, much of the shipping business is invisible and remains so to the mainstream business and management literature. Maritime business since, at least, the early modern period has evolved as a main factor for the communication and formation of the international and eventually global markets. Research in maritime business has evolved around the formation and transformation of shipping markets, the evolution of shipping firms and ship management, the effect of technology at sea transport and on its productivity and freight rates, on trends of the nationality of world fleet, and its denationalization or “flagging out,” on seafaring labor and risk at sea. A shipping firm is the economic unit that uses the factors of production to produce and provide sea transport services. It serves the world trade system which was consolidated in the 19th century, and the formation and organization of shipping firms followed the type of cargoes that had to be carried: first, bulk commodities carried in huge quantities like raw materials and second manufactured and packaged goods. The first type of cargo has been served by the tramp/bulk shipping companies and the second type by the liner/container shipping companies. Technology has been a watershed in the formation and transformation of the shipping firm. Five periods can be distinguished in the last two centuries in the evolution of the shipping industry and the shipping firm according to transformation of shipping markets and the introduction of new technologies: (a) up to the 1820s, (b) from the 1830s to the 1870s, (c) from the 1880s to the 1930s, (d) from the 1940s to the 1970s, and (e) after the 1980s. Until the last third of the 20th century Europe dominated the world fleet to be gradually replaced by the Asian fleets in the 21st century. Maritime business, is increasingly losing its “nationality” and is becoming global despite the fact that in sections of it there are powerful shipping families connected with certain nations. Shipping has always been a high-risk business, which, despite the evolution in many aspects of its operation, remains dependent on the acts of nature as well as on the acts of people, as the recent revitalization of piracy reveals.


Privatization of State-Owned Enterprises  

David Parker

Theoretical developments in economics, alongside evidence that state-owned enterprises were often inefficient and unresponsive to consumers, led to a substantial program of privatizations from the 1980s. Privatization can take a number of forms, from the outright sale of state-owned assets to private investors to forms of public-private partnership, such as contracting out and franchising of public services. Privatization was promoted in both developed and developing countries, and large-scale privatizations occurred in Europe, Latin America, China, and the former communist economies of Central and Eastern Europe, in particular. Privatization revenues rose substantially from the late 1980s internationally. Taking the years 1988 to 2016, revenues from sales are estimated to have been around $3,634bn. In terms of main sectors of the economy affected, privatizations have particularly occurred in telecommunications, transport and logistics (mainly railways, airlines, and airports), other utility businesses (especially energy companies), and finance. Numerous empirical studies suggest that the performance of the privatized businesses and services has been mixed. While privatization has led to some impressive economic gains, in a number of countries, wider governance issues relating to political and legal systems have led to disappointing outcomes. Privatization has not always led to the removal of state interference in the management of businesses and services. Corruption and cronyism have blighted a number of privatizations. State sell-offs have led to income and wealth redistribution with gainers and losers from the process. Some privatizations have led to spectacular capital gains for investors. The impact of privatization on employment and working conditions remains unclear. There are a number of issues that deserve further investigation, namely the consequences of privatization for technological change and innovation, competition policy, and income and wealth distribution. A further subject for investigation is how the effective and efficient management of state-owned enterprises can be best achieved. The boundary between the private and public sectors remains fluid, with a number of enterprises returning to state ownership as political and economic conditions change.


Reinsurance Function and Market  

Niels Viggo Haueter

The function of reinsurance is to absorb the risks of the direct insurance industry. This has two main purposes: (i) reinsurance capital allows direct insurers to write more business, and (ii) it protects them against balance sheet fluctuations caused by large and unexpected losses. The reinsurance market is served by a relatively small group of some 200 professional reinsurers. However, throughout history a variety of alternative forms appeared that could be used to distribute risks beyond one insurer. Co-insurance, for example, was one of the main forms of secondary risk spread in the marine community for centuries. It dominated the London market and was, to a large degree, responsible for the late and restricted development of reinsurance companies in Anglo-Saxon markets. The emergence of ever-larger risks in the 20th century forced the industry to focus increasingly on dealing with large losses and capping the maximum exposures of insurers. This made the business more financial, a trend which received a new boost with the advent of insurance-linked securities (ILSs) in the 1990s. Since then, the market for alternative risk transfer (ART) has grown, not least with the advent of new investors such as different investment funds that provide alternative risk capital. However, towards the 2020s, professional reinsurers started gaining ground again after a series of large natural catastrophes and with the continuous rise of Asian economies. Since the 2010s, growth opportunities for reinsurance are sought mostly in emerging markets and by making more risks insurable. Emerging market growth, however, is challenging and the gap between insured and insurable economic losses is still widening. Since the turn of the millennium, the industry has invested in finding solutions to close this so-called protection gap. Professional reinsurers are also seeking to develop new markets by making emerging risks such as cybercrime insurable. Yet such dynamic risks are fundamentally different from older static risks. Solutions are sought in applying methods that already made natural catastrophes insurable, modelling techniques, and ART products.


The Rise and Fall of “Shareholder Supremacy”: A Business History Perspective  

Steven Toms

With shareholder supremacy, the board is accountable to all shareholders, including minorities, enforced by restrictions on managerial opportunism. The market for corporate control and scrutiny of diversified institutional investors provide the mechanisms for disciplining managers to act in shareholders’ interests. Along with legal protections for minorities, these mechanisms ensure the supremacy of shareholders as a stakeholder group. Shareholder value maximization, as a theory and a set of financial techniques, provides quantitative outputs that drive managerial behavior. From a historical perspective, shareholder supremacy is a late twentieth-century phenomenon according to these definitional characteristics. History also reveals that shareholders have exercised dominance in other ways and that their power as a stakeholder group has waxed and waned over time as the governance role of investors has changed. Shareholder supremacy can be asserted in a number of ways. Shareholder activism and transparent structures of accountability are sufficient conditions in some circumstances. The suitability of this model is dependent on market structure and favored where there are local monopolies or businesses that have a narrow scope of activities. Alternatively, shareholders as active institutional investors can play a dominant role utilizing the market for corporate control. Collaboration with board insiders committed to expansion by takeover and merger is crucial to the success of this model. Finally, and most recently, the complementary presence of the market for corporate control, diversified institutional investors, and minority protection underpins present-day shareholder supremacy. In this model, the use of a common valuation technique is crucial. History reveals differing routes to shareholder supremacy, which have followed from developments in the institutional structure of regulation and changes in shareholding patterns.


The Swiss Watch Industry  

Pierre-Yves Donzé

The Swiss watch industry has enjoyed uncontested domination of the global market for more than two decades. Despite high costs and high wages, Switzerland is the home of most of the largest companies in this industry. Scholars in business history, economics, management studies, and other social sciences focused on four major issues to explain such success. The first is product innovation, which has been viewed as one of the key determinants of competitiveness in the watch industry. Considerable attention has been focused on the development of electronic watches during the 1970s, as well as the emergence of new players in Japan and Hong Kong. Yet the rebirth of mechanical watches during the early 1990s as luxury accessories also can be characterized as a product innovation (in this case, linked to marketing strategy rather than pure technological innovation). Second, brand management has been a key instrument in changing the identity of Swiss watches, repositioning them as a luxury business. Various strategies have been adopted since the early 1990s to add value to brands by using culture as a marketing resource. Third, the evolution of the industry’s structure emphasizes a deep transformation during the 1980s, characterized by a shift from classical industrial districts to multinational enterprises. Concentration in Switzerland, as well as the relocation abroad of some production units through foreign direct investment (FDI) and independent suppliers, have enabled Swiss watch companies to control manufacturing costs and regain competitiveness against Japanese firms.Fourth, studying the institutional framework of the Swiss watch industry helps to explain why this activity was not fully relocated abroad, unlike most sectors in low-tech industries. The cartel that was in force from the 1920s to the early 1960s, and then the Swiss Made law of 1971, are two major institutions that shaped the watch industry.


The History, Development, and Contributions of the Work of Thorstein Veblen  

Sean M. Haas

Thorstein Veblen was an American economist who lived from 1857 to 1929. He was born into a family of farmers in the state of Wisconsin. Veblen’s formal education was long and meandering, as he entered into Carleton College in 1877. He then moved to Johns Hopkins to begin a PhD in philosophy, which he then finished at Yale in 1884. After a 7-year hiatus, Veblen re-entered academia in 1890 as he enrolled in the doctoral program at Cornell. In 1891, Veblen moved to the University of Chicago, where he secured his first teaching position in 1892, but resigned in 1906. After departing Chicago, Veblen’s academic career remained sporadic. He taught at Stanford, the University of Missouri, and The New School for Social Research, each for a short period. Veblen believed that classical economics was fundamentally flawed. He made many significant contributions to the field through his creation of institutional and evolutionary economics. Both perspectives involve the integration of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution into economic analysis. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Veblen viewed Darwinian evolution as a philosophical basis of inquiry that could be applied to all complex systems. This formed the conceptual basis for his rejection of classical economic principles, which he viewed as teleological, or seeking the definition of natural laws. Just as Darwinian evolution had transformed the natural sciences, Veblen aimed to rehabilitate the field of economics. Veblen published ten books and wrote over one hundred essays and articles during his academic career. Much of his eminence rests firmly on one of his earliest works, The Theory of the Leisure Class, which is largely a critique of capitalism and wealth inequality in American society. Veblen’s approach to economics was multidisciplinary. As such, his work contains a variety of influences, from philosophical pragmatism and Darwinian evolution to both American and European socialism, as well as psychology and anthropology. Veblen’s contributions to economics have generally been classified as heterodox, primarily because of their theoretical nature and Veblen’s lack of a systemic comprehensive theory as well as his harsh critique of American capitalism. Both institutional and evolutionary economics have retained varying degrees of relevance in the decades since Veblen’s death. The original form of Veblen’s institutional economics exhibited a degree of favor in the academic discourse preceding the New Deal in the mid-1930s. However, institutional economics was further developed in the mid-1930s to the early 1960s, through second-generation institutionalists, such as Clarence Ayres, John Commons, and Wesley Mitchell. In the mid-1970s, new institutional economics was established to shift the field toward a new paradigm. Despite its historical roots in Veblen’s heterodox writings, the importance of institutions in analyzing economic development, and in formulating public policy, has been adopted by the modern mainstream economic discourse. The Association for Evolutionary Economics (AFEE) and the European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy (EAEPE) continue to bring together economists who perform research from evolutionary and institutional perspectives. The AFEE honors Veblen’s legacy and his contributions to the field through its annual Veblen-Commons Award for outstanding research.