The STEP Project held a fantastic webinar on April 21, 2020 via Zoom and Facebook Live to help family businesses navigate through this global pandemic crisis. It was titled: Family Businesses through Global Pandemic: from Disaster to Opportunity?

What is the STEP Project? STEP is a global consortium of expert researchers from 45 Institutions and over 175 scholars from 33 countries working to find impactful solutions and new ideas to for business families to thrive and embrace and teach their entrepreneurial spirit from one generation to the next. 

Why is this webinar important during this COVID 19 crisis? On Tuesday April 21, 2020, many of our distinguished thought leaders joined together to offer guidance and advice to business families around the world as we face unprecedented challenges during this global pandemic.  We believe navigating through these troubling times together as a community is better than facing the rough waters ahead alone.  We invite you to please pull up a chair and listen to what our experts in entrepreneurship and family business research have to say.

Click here for the recording to the webinar.

We are proud to introduce the Moderator and STEP Panelists that joined the webinar.

Moderator: Andrea Calabrò, STEP Academic Director, IPAG, France

15 Expert STEP Panelists:

  • Nunzia Auletta, IESA, Venezuela
  • Rodrigo Basco, American Univ. of Sharjah, UAE
  • Isabel Botero, Univ of Louisville, USA
  • Jeremy Cheng, CUHK, Hong Kong
  • Eric Clinton, DCU, Ireland
  • James Davis, Utah State, USA
  • Maria Fonseca Paredes, ITESM, Mexico
  • William Gartner, Babson College, USA
  • Esther Kong, SMU, Singapore
  • Luis Diaz Matajira, UniAndes, Colombia
  • Ilse Matser, STEP Global Board Chair, Windesheim, Netherlands
  • Patricia Monteferrante, IESA, Venezuela
  • Nupur Pavan Bang, India School of Business, India
  • Miruna Radu Lefebvre, Audencia, France
  • Carlo Salvato, Bocconi Univ., Italy

We are happy to share a brief overview of the panelist’s takeaways of “Lessons Learned” for Family Firms:

Carlo Salvato: Family firms cannot reliably outsource resources.  Social and Professional networks are essential and must be nurtured.  Governance inside and outside FB is important.  Develop new ideas.  Competitors joining to meet demands/needs in crisis.

Bill Gartner: Liquidity is a big problem and having cash on hand is essential.  Further develop relationships with your financial institution

Isabel Botero: People can survive under any circumstances.  Important to address the well being of the family/leader/owner

Luis Diaz Matajira: Communication is key for individual and family.  Ensure the family business and family are solid, renew promises.  Preserve governance and succession.

Miruna Radu Lefebvre: Short term: liquidity challenges to overcome.  Long term: preserve your family firm reputation.  Learnings from the past.  Ability to renew entrepreneurial initiatives is crucial or risk losing.  Transgenerational entrepreneurship is essential during crisis. This is a great moment for entrepreneurial family firms.

Rodrigo Basco: Crisis impact on family firms include:  1) oil market 2) local and global impact 3) engage multi-disciplinary team. Change in policy makers.

Jeremy Cheng: Hong Kong constantly facing new challenges to overcome and accustomed to this environment. This pandemic is a “disruption to the disruption”.

Nupur Pavan Bang: Response to employees important. How nimble can your family firm be?  Cash on hand is important and being nimble.  Many families living together again, 2-3 generations.  Next Gen: “this is the first time my father listened to me!”  Strong governing board to make decisions quickly.  Get to know employees.

Nunzia Auletta: Venezuela faces many crises over years so their resilience is helping them during this pandemic.  Family businesses are issuing public statements to sustain their reputation and building trust.

James Davis: In US, location and size of business matter during this pandemic.  Spontaneous venturing taking place and creativity.  Family firms are pivoting.  Supply chain not the same.  Redefining relationships with employees, customers and supply chains.  Opportunities to be creative and listen to younger generations in FB.  Older generation more dependent on younger generation—this is an opportunity!  New skill sets and outlook for family firms, especially small family firms.

Eric Clinton: Agriculture FB dominant in Ireland.  We see the importance of community. Many will be vulnerable without good governance in place.

Esther Kong: Singapore FB facing challenges of multilateralism/regionalization.  Different ways of dealing with supply chain.  Communication is important. Accelerate transition: what is role of next generation and when?

Maria Fonseca Paredes: Role of women in FB – helping family recognize the role of women in decision making process now.  Responsible ownership: teach and prepare next generation.

We are grateful to these esteemed panelists for their dedication and participating in this webinar and look forward to more community webinars.  We also thank the 250 registrants of the webinar and hope they found the insights from our panel helpful. 

Before we signed off, Andrea Calabrò posed these questions to the panel to ponder for our future webinars:  What is impact of family firms in lock down? What are challenges? How can family businesses avoid stress?  Here are some brief responses from the panel:

  • We call this “Post Traumatic Growth” – identify opportunities to grow further. 
  • Focus on innovation.
  • Relationships matter.
  • Philanthropy-give back to the community, build legacy.

Please stay tuned for the next webinar sessions planned with our experts in the near future.  STEP has a unique position of having entrepreneurship and family business experts from around the world to share experiences from their country to benefit the practitioners, academics and of course business families worldwide. We hope you can participate in future webinars!

For more information or questions about STEP, please contact step@babson.edu.