Which companies have better weathered the crisis, family firms or non family firms?

Jose Luis Gallizo, Jordi Moreno, Laura Sanchez


Purpose: In this study we have analyzed the evolution of the economic and financial structure of family and non-family Catalan firms in a context of a deep economic crisis. The aim of this study is to answer two main questions: identify which characteristics differentiate family firms from non-family firms, and test if these characteristics have allowed them to better weather the economics crisis.

Design/methodology/approach: We have analyzed 750 large and medium-sized enterprises from Catalonia (550 family firms and 200 non-family firms) during the period 2008-2012. The data have been taken from the SABI dataset. A one-to-one checking has been taken to classify the firms as family or non-family firms to avoid common classification mistakes. Subsequently, we have classified the firms according to the dimension to provide more robust results. To avoid a sectorial effect on the results, all categories considered are homogeneous in terms of sector.

Findings and Originality/value: The results have supported our hypothesis about the family firm’s financing and lead us to conclude that family firms have a different financial structure from non family firms. Specifically, family firms have a higher level of self-financing due to their reduced distribution of dividends. Moreover, family firms show better levels of coverage and liquidity because of its higher capitalization and lower debt in comparison to family firms. These economic and financial characteristics have helped family firms to better weather the crisis, with a lower proportion of loss-making enterprises.

Research limitations/implications: In this study we have considered as a family firms those enterprises in which at least one member of the owner family participates in the management. However, some studies affirm that not all the family firms have the same characteristics and suggest that other factors have to be considered in the classification. For this reason, other characteristics should be considered in future developments of this study, for example, the presence or absence of a family member as a CEO, or the age of the company. Furthermore, in this study we have only included large and medium-sized enterprises, so would be interesting analyze whether the results are consistent for a small-firms sample.

Originality/value: Some studies have analyzed which characteristics differentiate family firms from non family firms, while other studies have analyzed the effects of the economic crisis on businesses. However, this study combines both approaches and analyzes if these characteristic features have allowed family firms to be better prepared to overcome the economic crisis, a so far understudied issue in the literature.


Family firm, Financial structure, Economic crisis

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3926/ic.544

Licencia de Creative Commons 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Intangible Capital, 2004-2019

Online ISSN: 1697-9818; Print ISSN: 2014-3214; DL: B-33375-2004

Publisher: OmniaScience