Family Businesses during the COVID-19 Crisis – Evidence from Poland

Robert Zajkowski, Beata Żukowska


Theoretical background: Family businesses are a specific group of enterprises in which family bonds play a vital role in determining the economic and noneconomic goals of the business. The subject literature emphasises the long-term focus of family businesses which is on continuity, futurity and perseverance. During the COVID-19 crisis, unique family business traits can allow these entities to access useful resources and take positive actions such as forging strong networking relationships, tapping into local idiosyncratic knowledge, exercising rapid response, having flexibility and exercising trust with caution. This suggests that family businesses might also react to the COVID-19 crisis in their own distinctive ways using their unique attributes.

Purpose of the article: In this paper we will show how family businesses deal with coronavirus restrictions and what measures they undertook during this challenging period. The paper is organised around four research questions.

Research methods: This research was conducted using a sample of 167 family businesses. Primary data related to reactions of family businesses facing the COVID-19 crisis were collected in April and at the beginning of May 2020. To achieve the goals of this study, we carried out such research methods and procedures as fractal analyses, descriptive statistics, statistical comparison of means and subjective classification of the factors.

Main findings: For family businesses, a sudden fall in revenue was a common result of COVID-19 restrictions in the Polish economy. In the case of the majority of surveyed family firms, revenues fell by 44%, and in the next 2 to 3 months businesses expected additional decreases of 39.8%. More than 65% declared a stable level of employment, but more than a quarter of surveyed family fims showed an average dip in fim employment of 15.7% and expected further job losses at around 13.1%. To protect businesses against the negative effects of the pandemic, surveyed family fims undertook several ad hoc measures. We divided the analysed reactions to COVID into three groups: proactive, neutral and progressive. We noticed that the most common measures were those marked as “neutral”, or those which neither expanded nor retrenched the business in the short term. This observation suggests that family businesses might choose “persevering” as their first strategic response to the sudden crisis. We also found that “proactive” measures were undertaken in family businesses which evaluated their probability of survival as higher than businesses that indicated “neutral” or “defensive” reactions. In addition, we isolated statistically significant differences in family fims’ average probability of survival among the firms which introduced particular neutral and defensive measures and those which did not. On this basis we can conclude that the lower the perceived probability of survival is, the more retrenchment-oriented types of measures begin to be taken. Additionally, it should be mentioned that so-called anti-crisis shields implemented by the Polish government were assessed as inadequately supportive of business entities’ survival.


family businesses; COVID-19 crisis; ad hoc solutions; crisis management; Anti-Crisis Shield

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Data publikacji: 2020-12-01 08:38:10
Data złożenia artykułu: 2020-08-05 13:45:33


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