How to Commemorate Manuelita’s First Hundred Years? The Uses of the Past and the Historical Construction of Affective Events in Family Firms

This paper aims to explore the use of the past as an affective event in family firms. In particular, we are interested in analyzing how historical celebrations are the opportunity for the family business to experience and give meaning to its legacy through the management and experience of affective events. Grounding in the affective events theory (Weiss, & Cropanzano, 1996) and “uses of the past” literature (Foster et al., 2017), we propose a discussion on how a family firm decided to celebrate its first one hundred years of existence during a period of strategic change and increasing turbulence in the sugar industry. As a result, we explain how emotions influence business decisions and performance through the strategic use of their past as a family-owned firm. Methodologically, we accomplish this using case analysis (Eisenhardt, 1989, 1991; Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007) and archival data of Manuelita, a sugar company founded in 1864 by James Eder, a North American entrepreneur, who started by owning a traditional sugar plantation to then transformed it into a modern sugar cane factory in Colombia. Later, in 1930, his sons took control over and expanded the business trying to reach economies of scale and dominate the national market by investing in new sugar technologies and land ownership. Our analysis of monthly board minutes, history books edited by the family, newspapers, and correspondence intend to reveal how the family firms managed and experience the celebration of the first one hundred years of the company. Overall, our study contributes to the literature on the uses of the past and emotions in family firms.