Coronavirus crisis management from the family business approach

In the face of this serious crisis, I wanted to turn to the leading figures of long-successful family businesses. Their learning is especially timely now.

We have already been severely hit by the now infamous Covid -2019 coronavirus pandemic for days. My solidarity with the victims and the sick, as well as my enormous eternal gratitude to the social and health personnel, security forces, transporters and employers and workers who continue to have to work to maintain a minimum vitality for their enormous work.

Returning to business inspiration, I would like to highlight two key ideas:

One. In these turbulent times, more than ever, it is important to act with responsibility, peace of mind, serenity and common sense. As you well know in the great family sagas, we must look at things with perspective and think that, sooner or later, after the storm, calm returns. Making money in the short term for the shareholder is not the issue. Real family businesses become sustainable because they have a purpose that connects them to society. Today more than ever we are proving it.

Second. These great leaders teach us that crises are always times of opportunity. We are going to have the great opportunity to rethink strategies, processes, risk maps, all those things that day to day make it difficult for us to deal with. We will have the opportunity to understand that today we need companies with purpose. We will have the opportunity to spend more time on training and to notice that online education exists and works very well. We will have the opportunity to experience in depth the advantages of teleworking. And we will have the opportunity to live more with our family, with our children and surely cultivate some hobbies “indoor”.

Business families should be aware that these rough seas are best navigated by unity and cohesion. The business family constitutes a complex ecosystem where business (reason) and family (emotion) coexist and must be governed with intelligent balance. So corporate governance is highly recommended but this must also be accompanied by family governance to achieve the necessary alignment and pride of belonging through the design of a project and shared values. It should be especially relevant to work on the “why” that ends up outlining the purpose of the business family. With these solid foundations, the necessary passion and enthusiasm is generated to tackle the most difficult challenges. As a third generation leader of an important Spanish family business told me when talking about the management of this crisis, “now more than ever we have to focus on strengthening the values that have made us endure”.

Families must understand that the key to sustained success over time lies in wisely combining the experience of the older generations with the innovative potential provided by the continuing generations that bring digitalization and globalization into their genetic code. This combination is particularly recommended to address the difficult weeks ahead.

A clear and hopeful message. From the entrepreneurial leadership that usually permeates the actions of many family businesses, I know that they are acting with an absolutely “Darwinian” spirit in this emergency situation, not only to adapt quickly to the enormous challenges that this unusual situation is causing, but also to emerge strengthened when the general situation recovers.

I would not like to end without stressing that these days we have witnessed, and will continue to witness, extraordinary examples of business leaders with purpose in both public and private spheres. It is from such purposeful leadership that the difficulties, however great, will eventually be overcome.


Prof. Manuel Bermejo, PhD 
President of The Family Advisory Board