During a crisis, having a family business can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, there are often family elders with experience in overcoming previous recessions, support from the family unit, and the fact that family businesses tend to be more risk averse and therefore in a better position to weather the storm.
But some of those very attributes can also manifest as weaknesses. For example, family businesses have a concern for a wide range of stakeholders, including employees and customers, rather than a single-minded focus on shareholder value. Also, family tensions brought to the surface under pressure can often expose underlying stress fractures and exacerbate conflict in relationships, which may lead to more divisiveness.
How to capitalise on the strengths and avoid the weaknesses?
- Be in regular communication with all stakeholders and be extremely open – this builds trust
- Draw on family leadership, shared values, and governance
- Be open to learning from others, e.g. military approaches to VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environments
Consider This: How has your family business responded to the COVID crisis? Has it shown resilience or weakness (or some of both)? Have you considered what family members can be doing to help (aside from specific operational matters)?
Original articles: https://www.forbes.com/sites/francoisbotha/2020/03/31/family-business-challenges-the-3-issues-families-cant-ignore/#664087f23cf4, https://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/family-business-coronavirus-crisis, https://hbr.org/2020/05/what-family-businesses-can-learn-from-the-military, https://hbr.org/2020/05/4-tensions-in-family-businesses-and-how-to-work-through-them
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