This paper presents early results from a pilot project which aims to investigate the relationship between proprietary structure of small and medium- sized Italian family firms and their owners’ orientation towards a “business evaluation process”. Evidence from many studies point out the importance of family business in a worldwide\ud economic environment: in Italy 93% of the businesses are represented by family firms; 98% of them have less than 50 employees (Italian Association of Family Firms, 2004) so we\ud judged family SMEs as a relevant field of investigation.\ud In this study we assume a broad definition of family business as “a firm whose control (50% of shares or voting rights) is closely held by the members of the same family” (Corbetta,1995). “Business evaluation process” is intended here both as “continuous evaluation process” (which is the expression of a well developed managerial attitude) or as an “immediate valuation” (i.e. in the case of new shareholder’s entrance, share exchange among siblings,\ud etc). We set two hypotheses to be tested in this paper: the first is “quantitative” and aims to verify whether the number of owners (independent variable) in a family firm is positively correlated to the business evaluation process.\ud If a family firm is led by only one subject, it is more likely that personal values, culture and feelings may affect his choices more than “purely economic opportunities”; so there is less concern about monitoring economic performance or about the economic value of the firm. As the shareholders’ number increases, economic aspects in managing the firm grow in importance over the personal values and "value orientation" acquires a central role. The second hypothesis investigates if and to what extent the presence of “non- family members” among the owners affects their orientation to the business evaluation process. The “Cramer’s V” test has been used to test the hypotheses; both were not confirmed from these early results; next steps will lead to make an inferential analysis on a representative sample of the population
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