COVID-19 and Family Businesses: Weathering the storm together – Dr. Joseph Gerada

For most of us, at the moment, it is difficult to speak about anything else other than COVID-19, the effect it is having on our daily lives and the toll it is taking on our businesses, livelihood and the country’s economy. This is without taking into consideration the toll it is taking on our healthcare system and the health of those who contracted this virus, which has taken the whole world by surprise.

None of us were prepared for this. Now, more than ever, we need to work in unity and support each other in any way we can. Family businesses are having a hard time coping with the current situation. This is to be expected since family businesses normally suffer even more in times when the local and international economy is going through a bad patch or a recession. However, as much as we are aware of the hurdles family businesses have to face in general, this time we may want to look at the positive side of pertaining to a family business. The fact that family businesses are established on family relationships often further ensures resilience and prosperity, since the livelihood of the family often depends on the success and survival of the business itself.

It’s true that family businesses are a complex interrelation between the family dynamic and the business itself. This often presents additional layers of complexity in the decision-making process and the implementation of certain decisions which need to be taken. Although many small businesses that rely heavily on cash flow may have been considering laying off workers, especially before the government intervened with a number of fiscal incentives and support measures.

Family businesses are having a harder time dealing with such situations and taking the decisions that, to some, may seem to be the obvious solution. How can you make your own son, daughter, father, brother, sister or mother redundant? How do you decide who of them is to be retained in employment and who is not? How do you decide who is of greater importance to the success of the business? These are all decisions some family businesses may be currently facing.

On the other hand, family businesses will be able to weather the storm longer. Luckily, with the timely intervention of the Government, and a lot of personal sacrifices, I am confident that most family businesses will now find a way of making ends meet. They will do whatever is required to ensure that what they have worked so hard for all their life, survives through these difficult times so that, once the current situation is over, they will be able to restart the engines and bring the business back on its feet. I believe that we all need to start focusing on the silver lining and the better days to come. Those days are just a corner away, as far as that corner may seem at the moment.

As professionals, we are here to ensure that the support required in these difficult times is provided. The Family Business Office pledges to continue contributing to the local Family Business community and to assist with finding long term solutions to this global problem. In unity there is strength, and where better can we find strength than in the unity of a family business? We are, after all, all in this together.

For more information on registering a family business with the Family Business Office and the incentives offered please visit our site at https://www.familybusiness.org.mt/ or send us an email at [email protected]

Dr Joseph Gerada 
Family Business Office Regulator