5 tips for family business success during COVID-19

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our economy has been devastating, and we will unquestionably feel the impact for a long time to come.

However, family businesses are best placed to survive economic downturns – and recover faster – than non-family-owned businesses. Recent research suggests that family businesses have a stronger likelihood of organizational resilience during unexpected and powerful events.

Doing my normal monthly survey of family businesses at the beginning of April it was encouraging to hear that a number of them are actually doing ok. There is of course a sense of wariness and worry but mostly they are managing. A couple of them have pivoted incredibly quickly and are busier now than before the virus.

Family businesses are fantastic at innovating and, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, are more trusted by both customers and employees. We need to tap into these inherent advantages. The odds are in our favour!

That being said, it is going to be challenging and hard work to get through.

In a family business there are five things to focus on through this time:

Tap into family

Your family wants to help and they want you to succeed.  Even if not involved directly, they are invested in the business and feel a surprising level of attachment and pride about it.  They will be the ones who will work the extra hours when needed, the ones who will take the pay cuts and the ones who will be totally honest with you.


Family business is the seedbed of innovation and because they are such a large part of the economy – between 50-70% – you need to tap into this rich vein of ideas and innovation. The combination of your ideas and the new, different (and sometimes irritating) perspectives of family members are in fact a very powerful source of new ideas and ways of doing things. And, they’re often not shy in telling you. This is where we have the advantage of a family business: you have trusted, supportive family members, who you can tap into their ideas and discuss what needs to be done and how best to do it.

Keep family close

As mentioned, tap into family around the business but also make sure there is time when you focus purely on family.  Don’t talk about the business all the time – there is a time for business and a time for family. There is a risk we take family for granted, especially in these times – and we just can’t do this.  Tell them how much you love them, enjoy their company and realise (once again) what an amazingly lucky person you are for having such a wonderful family – in all their craziness!

Manage Your Stress

This is a stressful time.  We cannot get away from this. While family is your biggest supporter they are also the ones who wind us up the most and the ones who we most often ‘let fly’ at in ways that we would just not do to anyone else.

Know what your warning signs of stress are, this is crucial self-knowledge.  Know the best ways for you to manage your stress – is it going into a room by yourself with some music, is it a long walk, chopping wood or baking, focusing on a cherished hobby, or even talking?  Whatever it is, do it! We have to pace ourselves and we just do not have the luxury of going off the handle at family members.

Learn how to apologise.  A stressed Dad I talked to the other day who when his son raised an important issue about the business, barked way too hard, his son barked back. Thankfully both know how to apologise and they sorted it out.

Be ‘realistically optimistic’

We do not have the luxury of being overly optimistic, nor do we have the luxury of thinking we’re all doomed. Be realistic about what the situation is, but always on the look-out or open to new ideas that you have not thought about.  At the same time you need to be optimistic that you’ll get through this in some way – remember the odds are in our favour, but there is still a lot of work to do.

We are in for the long game here – it is going to be a long road to get back to whatever the new normal is, so we have to pace ourselves.

Like all businesses we will need to review the viability of our business and look at how we manage our cashflow, maintain staff, keep customers, innovate and keep paying our bills.

There will be tough conversations with suppliers, banks, staff, debtors and possibly family.  However, realise that you have a supportive, deeply knowledgeable group of people who love you to the ends of the world.  With that, all sorts of amazing things are possible!

Contact Family Business Central