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How culture, leadership and engagement helped a small business survive during the pandemic

John F. Blattner (PAS International Inc., Downers Grove, Illinois and Adler University, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
William P. Karmia (Partners in Counseling, Naperville, Illinois, USA and Adler University, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Thomas J. Walter (Tasty Catering, Elk Grove Village, Illinois, USA)

Strategic HR Review

ISSN: 1475-4398

Article publication date: 3 June 2021

Issue publication date: 11 August 2021




The purpose of this case study is to investigate how a small catering company has coped with the current Covid-19 pandemic. Initial research was performed in 2014 and repeated in 2018. Given the far reaching business challenges of the pandemic, the authors examined the viability of the organization within the current climate.


Embedded organizational components of culture, leadership and engagement are explored as key elements in the sustainability of the company during the pandemic crisis. Prior research data using the organizational culture inventory is used to assess organizational culture over a four-year period. Employee data and interview analysis within company structure is used to determine how leadership and employee engagement is impacted. Culture research is examined to determine the influence of company culture upon organizational survival.


This paper identifies workplace culture elements that contribute to company sustainability. Embedded core value systems, strong employee engagement mechanisms and focused leadership styles were observed to be critical influences upon company survival during the pandemic.


This research would assist industry professionals and practitioners in understanding the active workplace culture mechanisms found to be effective for organizational survival during periods of crisis. Companies that adopt similar practices may acquire sustainability advantage during the pandemic.



Blattner, J.F., Karmia, W.P. and Walter, T.J. (2021), "How culture, leadership and engagement helped a small business survive during the pandemic", Strategic HR Review, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 88-93.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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