Centre for Owner-Managed Businesses

Research projects

COMB develops and contributes to research projects and tools related to owner-managed businesses. Our aim is to actively contribute to the continuous development of practical knowledge and tools for long-term planning in owner-managed businesses.

iLEAD – Digital training of future leaders
The most recent research project of Center for Owner-Managed Businesses revolves around the challenges of technological advancements, which puts new demands on the leaders of the future. The project is granted by The Danish Innovation Foundation and is led by professor Niels Westergård-Nielsen (CBS). The team consists of associate professor Ann-Louise Holten (KU), professor Tina Blegind Jensen (CBS), assistant professor Mari-Klara Stein and professor Lotte Bøgh Andersen (AU). In the end, a digital evidence-based leadership tool will be developed and tested.

The primary target group of the project is leaders responsible for employees in Danish firms with a minimum of 10 employees.

The scope of the project is threefold.

First, the actual challenges and opportunities that Danish firms face will be mapped on the basis of a nation-wide study. Then, theoretical models will be selected and developed for the leadership tool, which in the end will be tested against each other.

On the basis of the new knowledge, an innovative digital app will be developed to both support leadership training and for leaders to use in their day-to-day management to motivate and lead their employees.

After an initial dialogue with leaders and selected firms in the development of the app, the new digital leadership development tool will be launched at a conference and made accessible to Danish firms on a larger scale.

The point of the project is to empower leaders of Danish firms for the benefit of economic growth and competitiveness. The project ends with a practical tool intended to improve leadership practices with increased job satisfaction and performance of participating firms.

The Soft Values ​​- Psychological aspects of owner-management and the transfer of ownership process
This research project deals with the psychological processes that the owner-managers go through in relation to the transfer of ownership process. The project is granted by The Danish Industry Foundation. COMB's Ph.D and Postdoc Ellen M. Korsager and Ph.D and Case writer Camilla Nelleman are behind the project, which informs the existing theory about the challenges of a change of ownership and culminates in a specific tool with the title "The Ownership barometer". The Ownership barometer is to map out the different owner-manager profiles that typically are to be found in owner-managed businesses and the unique challenges that emerge from each profile associated with ownership. The project aims to clarify what we know about the motive power of the owner-managers, their motivation for doing business, as well as to illustrate the motivational processes that are in play for the owner-manager in connection with the process of an ownership change. This knowledge benefits the owner-managers as well as their advisers and the strategic planning.

The project's target group is the Danish owner-managed small and medium-sized enterprises. Specifically, the owner-managers, the board (if any) and the advisors of the owner-managers, such as accountants, lawyers and consultants.

The project consists of three main activities that can be divided into the categories knowledge, tools and dialog

Defines the psychological dimensions that come into play in relation to the owner-manager's motivation for doing business, their motive power as owner-manager, and the transfer process. Based on a survey of existing empirical and research-based knowledge of owner-managers and ownership, the given dimensions are classified in order to formulate specific owner-manager profiles, each of which expresses the typical elements/aspects of owner management and the owner-manager's view on transfer of ownership.

Based on the conducted knowledge and psychological motivation, identity, and decision theory the tool The Ownership barometer is developed. The Ownership barometer are to consist of owner-manager profiles and each of their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and constraints are defined. The Ownership barometer can thereby be used to work analytically both with the owner-manager's approach to the transfer of ownership and the ownership transfer process in practice.

The Ownership barometer is to be used by COMB and our partners, working with owner-managers to create dialogue about the change of ownership process. The Ownership barometer is e.g. used in practice in COMB's own teaching, workshops and courses.

The project aims to create a practical tool that can be used in a broad sense by the owner-managers and advisors to create transparency and clarity about the change of ownership process. In the end, this knowledge should prepare the owner-managed businesses to the ownership transfer process and enhance the competitiveness, growth and profitability of the business. The effect is measured on whether the businesses, using The Ownership barometer or attending courses, indicate that they have new and concrete input to work with the transfer process.

The Importance of the Board and Management in the Transfer of Ownerships
Director of COMB and professor at CBS, Niels Westergård-Nielsen, will head the research project, which will be based on COMB's other project to improve the transfer of ownership for the benefit of business growth and is granted by The Danish Industry Foundation. These new perspectives will include how the management changes managerial style before and after a change of ownership. On this basis, the project will identify managerial challenges, from the close management, where the employees usually have grown up with the owner-manager to the employee or the new management who have no common history or relationship with the owner-manager. This knowledge will create value when businesses need to consider entrusting the management to others - and it is also relevant for the new manager.

The project's target group is Danish SMEs that are or have been owner-managed. More specifically the target group consists of owner-managers, board of directors and potential managers of Danish owner-managed businesses. The target group also include employees and advisors around the companies.

The project consists of two major core activities, each of which can be divided into the categories knowledge, tools and dialog.

1. main activity:
Knowledge: board work in owner-managed businesses.
The project will examine to which extent the boards help strengthen the management in SMEs before and after a transfer of ownership.
Tools: decision tree to assess when a business must have a board of directors, and the conditions that must be present.
Dialogue: seminars by regional 'board academies' targeted at owner-managers and boards.

2. main activity:
Knowledge: managerial styles in owner-managed businesses.
A study of employee turnover (before and after a change of ownership), job creation and closure, as well as the company's key indicators in order to analyze how the staff reacts to the change in management and managerial style.
Tools: model for how management practices affect the key variables as earnings growth and investments in companies.
Dialogue: communication based on cases for management practices.

The project will contribute to Danish businesses utilizing the vast knowledge that lies in the analyses of Danish business data to increase competitiveness, growth and profitability among owner-managed businesses in Denmark. The effect is measured on whether the businesses using the decision tree or attending courses, indicate that they have knowledge that leads them to work on the development of management.

Growth through Business Transfer in Danish Owner-Managed Businesses

The Danish Industry Foundation has originated and funded the research project Growth through Business Transfer in Danish Owner-Managed Businesses. The project aims to improve long-term planning and business transfers in Danish owner-managed businesses for the benefit of the businesses and their future growth.

Nearly 80 % of the Danish businesses are owner-managed, and they therefore play an important role in the Danish industry. Over the next decade, approx. 23,000 businesses are to be transferred to another owner or group of owners. "Before this research project we had no research-based knowledge and practical tools to ensure the successful business transfer in Denmark. Earlier research have shown that 16,000 of our owner-managers are 65 years old or older, and some of these have not yet considered their exit strategy" says Mads Lebech, CEO at The Danish Industry Foundation.

The project will meet these challenges in three ways:

During the five year project six research papers will be published revealing the actual challenges and opportunities that Danish businesses are facing in connection with their long-term planning and business transfer. The research will focus on the status of business transfer in the Danish owner-managed businesses, on how owner-managers think of their possibilities and challenges regarding their business transfer, on the economic consequences of a business transfer, on case studies of the successful and the challenging business transfers and on the fiscal challenges of a business transfer.

New strategic tools and information
On the basis of the research, the project will develop new strategic tools and information for the owner-managers and their advisers. Thus, the project will develop a new long-term planning tool for owner-managed businesses that enables the owner-manager to develop strategies and a future plan for the continuity and growth of the business and the business transfer. In addition, a web-based interactive planning tool will be developed that benchmarks owner-managed businesses and issues a company-specific strategic report and inspiration material that owner-managers can use to implement the long-term planning and business transfer.

Implement tools and information in small and medium-sized owner-managed businesses
Applied research and tools are essentials in the research project, thus it is important to ensure that small and medium-sized owner-managed businesses implement and use the tools. This is achieved through the development and implement of an advisory and dialogue offer to owner-managed businesses, through the development of executive education programs for owner-managers and their advisers, through training courses offered to owner-managers on a regional basis, and through the communications of the project research and tools.

In the project COMB cooperates with researchers and practicians connected to INSEAD and the audit firms PwC and BDO as well as several international researchers and partners in the Danish industry.


The page was last edited by: Centre for Owner-Managed Businesses // 10/26/2017