Reviews Hall of Fame Digital Edition: How family businesses position themselves in the corona crisis

14:35  25 september  2020
14:35  25 september  2020 Source:   handelsblatt.com

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Das Vorstandsmitglied des Autovermieters Sixt trimmt das Unternehmen auf digitale Dienste. © dpa The board member of the car rental company Sixt is trimming the company for digital services.

family businesses are proving to be stable in the corona crisis. However, 70 percent do not believe that the worst has already bottomed out.

family businesses will play an important role in overcoming the crisis. But the same applies to them: digitization is a must. The statement by Stefan Heidbreder, Managing Director of the Family Business Foundation, is clear: "We already know that family businesses will have a stabilizing effect on the German economy," he said on Thursday evening at the digital edition of the Hall of Fame for family businesses , an initiative by Handelsblatt and KMPG.

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Past crises have shown that they are anchors of stability, for example as a taxpayer or employer in times of crisis. Because they have high equity in most cases, they are also less dependent on banks. This was also confirmed by Nadine Kammerlander, professor and head of the Institute for Family Business and Mittelstand at WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management. Studies have shown that family businesses are far less likely to lay off their employees in a crisis.

In the live surveys, only ten percent agreed with the statement by the Federal Minister of Economics that the worst had already been passed. 70 percent are of the opposite opinion, 20 percent are still undecided. As a reaction to the crisis and to prevent future exogenous shocks, 43 percent of the viewers surveyed live decided to broaden their business model in the future. On the other hand, 27 percent want to focus more on their core business, but still want to be present on all channels.

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When asked what is causing companies to sleep particularly badly at the moment, 57 percent answered that on the one hand they had to spread a spirit of optimism and cut costs. Only seven percent said they slept poorly because they had to fire employees. Nadine Kammerlander also sees this as proof that the family businesses tried, as they did in the last financial and economic crisis, to lay off as few employees as possible.

Nonetheless, the crisis has shown that family businesses also have to adapt: ​​"The corona crisis was a wake-up call for many," she said. The companies that would normally look to the next ten to 20 years would now also look more closely into the next year - especially when it comes to digital transformation.

The pandemic broke down barriers, for example in cooperation with start-ups: "There is still no statistical information, but before that there was a cultural distance between start-ups and family businesses." In the course of the pandemic, companies found that they urgently need support - and that they have drawn on the know-how of start-ups.

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It was certainly a lesson that one had to think outside the box and perhaps digitalize more radically, said Daniel Terberger, CEO of Katag AG. In retrospect, some companies might not have pushed this forward with the necessary vehemence.

Early digitization increases resilience

The difference digitization made in the crisis was also emphasized by Anja Müller, correspondent for family businesses at Handelsblatt. Companies that had already digitized many processes and, above all, their business models, were significantly more resilient.

Konstantin Sixt , Board Member for Sales at the mobility provider, has also had this experience. “It definitely helped that we are very digitally digitized and that we have lived that in the company for years.” For example, the listed family company would not have had to invent contactless rentals during the crisis .

For Sixt, one component is particularly important in the entire process: the employees. “In 2020, the tireless efforts of the employees will remain for me. What kind of forces that released. Everyone pulled together and fought for the company. ”

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Vera-Carina Elter, Head of HR and Family Business at KPMG, also sees this effect. “Many companies fell apart physically as a result of the crisis, but the teams were washed together.”

Michael Mack, managing partner of Europapark, is pleased that was able to resume operations , even under new conditions. 25,000 people are currently allowed in the park. Before the pandemic, around 50,000 visitors came on good days. In 2019 alone, around 5.7 million people visited the Europa Park. But: "We are happy for our many employees that we can maintain the vision and culture," he said.

The company invested in digitization very early on, but it was too early to say whether that helped them. It is clear, however, that the latest attraction “Yullbe”, where visitors become avatars and experience adventures in virtual worlds, is an important step in making the business more location-independent. You only need around 200 square meters of space for this, and they could also be considered an attraction in cultural institutions or shopping centers.

Another of Mack's own developments also met with great interest: a distance radar in the park's app. It could definitely be of interest to other companies. This allows visitors to see whether they are keeping a sufficient distance.

More: The digital "Hall of Fame for family businesses" here in the video

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