What other characteristics would you name to describe the advantages of family businesses in crisis situations?
Klein: One obvious advantage that shouldn’t be underestimated, is not only the speed of decision making but also their implementation. During the corona crisis we are experiencing a lack of respirators, mouthguards and test capacities. While in the US government decisions were necessary at the highest level, many companies – and family businesses were in the front line here – have adapted and reacted quickly to this situation without seeing these measures as marketing in their own right. Bosch, for example, a family-owned company, developed new test procedures marketable in its medical division in very short time. A division that is of special importance to Robert Bosch by the way. Also thinking of Trigema and the Grupp family, which converted 80% of their production capacities to the manufacturing of textile mouthguards in very short time. Dräger from Lübeck - better known as a quality leader for respiratory equipment - is currently investing in the US to set up a plant for the production of medical protective masks. Production is scheduled to start as early as September. The VW subsidiary Seat manufactures ventilators. The list of supporters, including non-family businesses, is long.
It sounds as if the winners of a crisis are – if you want to put it that way – family businesses.
Klein: Phrased this way, this interpretation is not correct. Entrepreneurial wisdom is not reserved for family entrepreneurs. They have – as I said – special requirements, but these are no guarantees. Overcoming a crisis is determined by many factors, including its duration. To put it simply: without sufficient income, the room for manoeuvre is limited in time when operating expenses are involved. For some there is more room, for others there is less. No network of employees, customers or suppliers is infinitely resilient. It is therefore important that in a crisis of macroeconomic proportions, the pillars of the economy – namely small and medium-sized enterprises and family businesses – shall not be forgotten. We have serious doubts whether sufficient attention is being paid to these companies. Politicians have recognised this problem, but the question remains whether words will be put into action. Against the background that over 90% of the approximately 3.4 million companies in Germany are family businesses, the question seems legitimate as to whether the financial aid programmes are sufficient to keep this economic motor running. Certainly, the individual small businesses and companies (in Germany, 3.1 million companies employ up to 9 people) may not be “systemically relevant”, using this terrible catchword. But medium-sized and family-owned businesses as a whole are. According to a recent survey by the association Die Familienunternehmer, the companies surveyed consider their liquidity to be dramatically at risk. A good quarter of those questioned believe they can persevere for up to three months, but a third only up to 8 weeks. In this respect, it is to be hoped that bureaucratic obstacles in particular, e.g. in the context of credit checks, will be lesser and above all taken more quickly.
Thank you for this interview!