Family Business education can help companies strengthen and adapt to challenges of Covid-19

The Centre for Family Entrepreneurship and Ownership (CeFEO) at Jönköping International Business School, Jönköping University, has now opened applications for the second edition of their online Family Business Management executive education this spring.

“Our research shows that family businesses are very resilient in times of crisis, but they also face their own unique challenges. We want to give them the theoretical knowledge to make sense of their own experiences and in doing so make better decisions for their company and their families,” says CeFEO director, Massimo Baù.

Head and shoulder portrait shot of Massimo Baù.

Massimo Baù, Director of CeFEO.

Like most businesses, family-owned companies are facing huge challenges in the face of Covid-19. But research has shown that family businesses are very different to other business organisations and have their own unique strengths and weaknesses when it comes to facing a crisis.

“The challenge of covid is to be resilient. Family businesses are good at thinking long-term, they are the majority of the oldest-surviving businesses around. But in their case, the entire economy of the family is linked to the business and so the idea of survival and keeping the business going for future generations has an emotional dimension to it," says CeFEO director, Massimo Baù.

According to Massimo Baù, one of the things that make family businesses different from other business organisations is this concept of ‘socio-emotional wealth’.

“Family businesses forge very close relationships, not just between family members and the employees, but with external stakeholders and even the society that they exist within. If a family business fails, it’s not just the family that is affected. It can have a devastating impact on the local community as well, especially in rural areas.”

In a time of stress and uncertainty, such as in a pandemic, handling the emotional landscape of a family business and all the close relationships within it are crucial.

“The role of the owner is so important in a family business and we talk about this in the course. They play a key role in the interplay between family and non-family members. Times of crisis create a lot of uncertainty in business, and so good communication is vital. What we know is that families often don’t talk, they take feelings and expectations for granted. But sharing uncertainty and discussing problems helps make everyone feel part of something and allows to better face the difficulties,” says Massimo Baù.

As a result of Covid-19, sadly a large number of senior family business leaders have suddenly passed away or have been forced to leave the business earlier than expected due to poor health. The massive impact this has on family businesses can not be underestimated, says Massimo Baù.

“The sudden death or loss of an owner is a shocking experience for those in a family business. The grief and suffering involved is far greater. Covid-19 has accelerated succession processes that were probably not properly put in place before. What Covid has confirmed is that some companies are currently focused on the short term, making small adaptations to survive but keeping going with the old planning. But they can no longer just stick to the old way of doing things. They need to get proactive and make new strategies. The family itself needs to plan for the future. Our course can help with this.”

The Family Business Management course was first launched in 2019, thanks to funding from the Swedish Knowledge Foundation. The course was developed by Massimo Baù, Kajsa Haag and Mattias Nordqvist and draws on 16 years of research-based evidence from CeFEO and its academic network.


It starts 1 March 2021, and offers 5 different modules consisting of a total of 15 lectures and 20 online meetings, and awards 15 university credits at master’s-level. The course is fully online and it is tailor-made for business owners, professionals and practitioners, working full-time in or with family businesses, as well as for next-generation family business members and successors. The tuition fee is waived for EU/EEA citizens.

Read more about the course and apply. External link, opens in new window.

Deadline for applications is 21 February, 2021.