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COVID-19 health crisis and family business performance: the moderating effect of family leadership

Jean-Michel Sahut (IDRAC Business School, Lyon, France)
Léopold Djoutsa Wamba (University of Maroua, Maroua, Cameroon)
Lubica Hikkerova (IPAG Business School, Paris, France)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 24 March 2023

Issue publication date: 19 April 2023




In the context of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis, this article aims to analyze the resilience of family businesses in a developing country like Cameroon. As such, this study seeks to fill two gaps in the literature: first, by comparing the financial and social performance of family companies with those of non-family companies not listed on the stock exchange, and second, by comparing performance across family-run companies, according to the companies' mode of leadership in Cameroon, a developing country affected by COVID-19 like the rest of the world.


Based on the literature review, the authors developed empirical models to identify the variables which influence the financial and social dimensions of business performance. These models were tested with multilinear regressions, using data collected from questionnaires distributed to 466 firms, of which 212 were family firms and 254 non-family firms. The authors completed our analyses with mean comparison tests to demonstrate whether our results are significantly different between family and non-family firms.


The authors' multiple regressions and tests produced two main results – the financial and social performance of all Cameroonian firms declined sharply during the crisis, and with the firms' financial performance hit hardest, family firms have been more resilient to the crisis in terms of financial and social performance than non-family firms. The weak governance and social protection system, as well as an inefficient legal system, do not seem to negatively affect the performance of these Cameroonian firms – the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the performance of family firms were better managed in firms where family members are actively involved in management or control through family members' strong representation on the board of directors (BD).

Research limitations/implications

The two main limitations of this study concern the governance of these companies included and the failure to take the characteristics of the manager into account. Investigating other governance variables, such as the composition of the BD or the participation of employees in the capital, would enable us to refine the authors' interpretations of the companies' financial and social performance. Another limitation is the fact that the characteristics of the manager were not considered, especially when the manager is a family member. Exploring this variable would make studying the generational aspect of family businesses possible.

Practical implications

Family companies are more resilient to crisis because of the companies' long-term focus, which also encourages the companies to maintain the companies' social policy and to avoid redundancies as far as possible. Weak systems of governance and social protection, as well as an ineffective legal system, do not negatively affect the performance of Cameroonian family companies. The results also suggest that family shareholders should become more involved in the management and control of family's firms to make the firms financially and socially resilient and in so doing drastically reduce the impact of crises.

Social implications

This study shows, in particular, how family firms are more socially resilient than other firms in times of crisis (by resorting less often to redundancies). Family firms should, therefore, arguably benefit the most from public support during crises.


The authors' research makes two main contributions to the literature on family businesses. The results first of all show that Cameroonian family firms have thus far performed better financially and socially during the COVID-19 period than non-family firms. Second, this research focuses on differences in performance based on family business management types during this specific crisis period. The results suggest that the most resilient family firms, in terms of performance, are those in which the family is involved in the management or control of the BD.



Sahut, J.-M., Djoutsa Wamba, L. and Hikkerova, L. (2023), "COVID-19 health crisis and family business performance: the moderating effect of family leadership", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 119-143.



Emerald Publishing Limited

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