83 per cent of Irish family businesses struggled during pandemic shows DCU study

Niamh Kinsella

One in four  family owned Irish businesses are worried about losing control over their business within the next six months because of Covid-19, according to a recent study.

“Surviving a Crisis as a Family Business” marks the first study of family business practice that includes businesses from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

It captures the lived experiences of over 250 participants from a broad range of sectors and insight into the realities they’ve been facing in their respective industries during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over 8 in 10 CEOs surveyed stated that their family business would run out of cash within the next six months if the crisis does not abate, with 81 per cent reporting that they used governmental supports to offset the negative impact of the pandemic on the business.

The report, carried out by Dublin City University’s National Centre for Family Business, shows a number of significant insights into what businesses have changed to keep their companies afloat, with 98.1 per cent of CEOs reporting that the pandemic will change their business model going forward.

Some businesses diversified into new markets, while others launched new products. Most embraced new technologies to their benefit, a key hurdle in the midst of external challenges.

“You have to reinvent yourself every time you come back”, said Hugh Hourican, owner of The Boar’s Head pub on Capel Street, told The College View.

“Each time we come back, it’s worrying because you’re trying to get your staff back, you’re trying to look after them. There’s a lot of stress involved.”

The Boars head was open for a total of five months and two days in 2020, limiting how many people allowed into the pub and limiting how long those people can stay, in order to abide by government guidelines and to ensure safety.

“Being a small premises, and a family run premises in the city centre, we have built up a trade and we know the majority of our customers. The support from them gave us encouragement each time we reopened last year.

“I would however fear for pubs down the country that are family run, because they have so many disadvantages going against them. In Mayo last week, there were something like 22 pubs in the paper for sale,” said Hourican.

Businesses must pay suppliers and banks even in situations if they have had no income coming in for the majority of the year.

The study provides an overview of the Covid-19 context and insight into the social realities facing family businesses like that of Hugh’s, as they came to terms with the impact of the crisis.

The full report is available to read here

Niamh Kinsella

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