In the intricate landscape of family businesses, the delicate balance between socioemotional wealth (SEW) and the need for professionalization is a pivotal factor in driving innovation and ensuring long-term success. SEW, which encompasses emotional investments and values such as family legacy and identity, is a defining characteristic of family firms. However, as Kosmidou & Ahuja (2019) highlight, professionalization plays a critical role in fostering innovation, which is essential for the growth and sustainability of these businesses.

The Interplay of SEW and Professionalization

SEW can be both a driving force and a hindrance. It instils a sense of purpose and continuity but can also lead to resistance against necessary changes and external inputs. The absence of SEW or its overemphasis can create a void where professionalization needs to step in. Financial advisors, with their external perspective and expertise, can fill this gap, guiding family firms toward paths of innovation that they may not have considered due to their emotional ties to tradition.

The Role of Professionalization in Innovation

Professionalization introduces non-family expertise into the management of family businesses, establishing formal governance structures and adopting advanced management practices. As Kosmidou & Ahuja (2019) outlined in their article, this transition is not just about bringing in external practices but about enhancing the firm’s capacity for innovation through new knowledge, expertise, and timely access to financial resources.

The Complex Relationship Between SEW, Professionalization, and Innovation

The relationship between SEW, professionalization, and innovation is intricate. High levels of SEW can indeed drive innovation, particularly when the business operates in a dynamic environment and professionalization is not fully embraced. This complexity requires family businesses to adopt a strategic approach, considering their unique environment and the interplay between these elements.

The entry of younger generations into the family business often shifts the focus towards professionalization and financial performance, potentially at the expense of SEW. These new members bring an entrepreneurial spirit and formal education, driving the business towards innovation and professional management. However, this shift must be managed carefully to maintain the essence of the family business while embracing growth and change.

Bridging the Gap with Financial Advisors

Financial advisors are instrumental in balancing the emotional aspects of SEW with the rational demands of business growth. They provide objective insights into decision-making, helping family businesses navigate the complexities of innovation while managing the emotional dynamics that could potentially disrupt progress.

There are several ways in which advisors can promote professionalization such as:

1. Assessing the Current State of SEW and Professionalism:

Advisors should begin with a thorough assessment of the family business’s current reliance on SEW and the extent of its professional practices. This involves understanding the family’s values, goals, and the role business plays in their lives. It also requires an evaluation of the business’s governance, management structures, and processes.

2. Setting a Vision for Professionalization:

Advising a family, advisors can help articulate a clear vision for the future that includes specific professionalization goals. This vision should align with the family’s values while also addressing the need for innovation and business growth.

3. Developing a Roadmap for Change:

Advisors can assist in creating a strategic roadmap that outlines the steps required to achieve professionalization. This may include introducing formal governance structures, such as a board of directors with outside members, implementing advanced management practices, and establishing clear succession plans.

4. Bridging the Gap with Education and Communication:

Educating family members about the benefits of professionalization and how it can coexist with SEW is vital. Advisors should facilitate open communication to address concerns and build consensus on the way forward. Advisors must be equipped to manage conflicts that may arise from the tension between family values and professionalization, providing mediation and conflict resolution strategies.

5. Monitoring and Adjusting the Balance:

Advisors should help family businesses establish metrics to monitor the impact of professionalization on both business performance and SEW. While professionalizing, it’s important to establish structures that preserve SEW, such as family councils or charters that enshrine the family’s values and legacy within the business’s operations.


Navigating the path of innovation in family businesses requires a nuanced approach that balances the preservation of SEW with the adoption of professionalization. Financial advisors play a critical role in this process, offering the expertise and objectivity needed to guide family firms towards sustainable growth and innovation. Family Business research insights serve as a valuable reminder of the importance of professionalization in achieving the enduring success of family enterprises.