Document Type



Doctor of Business Administration


Business Administration

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Min Ju, Ph.D.


Stephanie Merritt, Ph.D.

Bindu Arya, Ph.D.


Family businesses are the engine that drives the United States economy. While extensive implications have been made in the literature about the advantages or disadvantages of family-owned businesses compared to non-family-owned businesses, the focus of this study was to show how small to medium-sized family-owned firms (FF SMEs) based in the United States can use their unique history to create a competitive advantage. Drawing on imprint theory and the resource-based view (RBV), this history-informed study helped identify the impact that founder imprints, business traditions, and storytelling have on the business performance of FF SMEs. Using quantitative methods, the findings of this study show that as FF SMEs place an increased focus on their business traditions and build their competency for storytelling, they create a competitive advantage and positively impact their performance. Additionally, a moderating effect was found between the variables of business traditions and storytelling and the variables of founder imprints and business performance, which demonstrates that the moderating effect can be controlled by leadership, can influence business performance, and can reduce the impact of founder imprints. Therefore, the findings of this study extend the literature on founder imprints and rhetorical history and provide a roadmap for how FF SME owners can curate traditions and develop a competency for storytelling competency among its leaders.