Mrs Catherine Bell1,2

1Backswath Management Inc, Drumheller, Alberta, Canada

2California Southern University, Costa Mesa, California, USA



Intergenerational transfer, or succession, is often a goal for family businesses in general, and family farms in particular. This challenging objective is aided or hindered by interpersonal trust between family members. The purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of the role of trust in succession so that those involved can observe the intergenerational behavioral patterns and estimate the source of trust/mistrust, or they can evaluate the trust issues and predict what behavioral patterns to expect. This meta study of the qualitative research literature on family businesses and succession revealed recurring patterns of intergenerational behavior as it relates to the essential component of trust. Character and competence influence the ability of business founders/predecessors and their children/successors to work within an area of trust, shaping intergenerational relationships and producing characteristic family business behavior patterns. Four typical interactive patterns include long-term stability, authoritarian rule, nepotism and sibling rivalry. Family member trust directly affects, and is affected by, family relationships, which, in turn influence both business performance, and the likelihood of successful intergenerational succession for the business itself.


Currently, Cathy is working with Backswath Management Inc., an agriculture business management consulting group, developing succession, transition and governance resources for farm consultants and their farm family clients. Cathy earned a BSc in Home Economics and started working with the Alberta Government Department of Agriculture as an extension home economist. After 5 years of working in the field, she obtained a master’s degree in adult education (MAEd.) because of her interest in extension and education in general. About this time, she met and married a farmer from the Drumheller area of central Alberta, Canada. For the past 30 years she has been actively involved in the family farm’s grain, legume and oilseed production. With the children leaving for post-secondary education, Cathy had time to follow an area if interest and concern, namely trying to understand the complexity of farm succession and the struggle many families have with this transition. Toward this end she pursued, and recently completed, an MSc. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from California Southern University, focusing on family businesses and succession.

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The objective of the International Farm Management Association is to further the knowledge and understanding of farm business management and to exchange ideas and information about farm management theory and practice throughout the world. The IFMA is a non profit-making organisation and currently the Association has members in over 50 countries.

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