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Once Upon a Time: A Case Study of Stories in the Collective Memory of a Family-Owned Business Open Access

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Using a single case study methodology and the theoretical lens of collective memory, this study explored the stories told in a family-owned business. From the research, a robust picture of these stories emerged.Interviews, observation, and document review occurred at a family-owned, agriculturally based manufacturing business. Three family member and 22 non–family member employees were interviewed for this study. From the interviews, five stories emerged, which met the criteria of being shared among either the family member employees, the non–family member employees, or both employee categories. Collective memory, as defined by Casey (1997), provided the theoretical foundation for the study, allowing the stories identified to be considered in relation to history and commemoration (Schwartz, 2005) and nonparticipant narrators (Casey, 1997; Linde, 1997). In the analysis of both family members’ and non–family members’ stories, the notion of a hybrid story emerged. A hybrid story incorporates two distinct stories, a family story and an organizational story, that could each stand independently. However, within the hybrid story, the two distinct stories are united into one cohesive story. The identification of the hybrid story answered the calls of multiple scholars. Using collective memory to analyze these stories addressed Boje’s (2008) appeal for more theorizing and research uniting collective memory and organizational stories. The hybrid story represents a new type of entrepreneurial story, as Wry et al. (2011) requested. Stories, including the hybrid story, are an artifact of an organization’s culture. As such, the hybrid story presents further cultural exploration, as Nicholson (2008) invited. Finally, the inclusion of non–family member employees’ data allowed for their representation within this study, a gap previously noted within the family business literature (James et al., 2012; Mitchell et al., 2003; Sharma, 2004). The implications of the hybrid story are unknown at this time; however, some benefits for family-owned businesses can be hypothesized. First, the hybrid story may provide employees with a greater sense of stability. Second, hybrid stories may create increased stability and understanding during periods of organizational change. Finally, hybrid stories may have implications for increased legitimacy.

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