As part of the series of interviews dedicated to “Family Businesses in Times of Crisis”, we are pleased to share the recent conversation of Rania Labaki, Associate professor and Director of EDHEC Family Business Centre, with Emmanuel Viellard, CEO of LISI Group and President of Viellard Migeon & Cie, which is a member of The Henokiens. LISI is an industrial company, with French origins dating back to 1777, today one of the worldwide leaders in fasteners and structural components.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a ripple effect on the world economies and societies. How has the family business been particularly impacted?
The business was very hardly hit on average with 50% of revenue decrease for the months of April and May 2020. The new generation was getting prepared to ramp up. Given the context that is not easy, it will take over very gradually.

How did these changes translate into business and family initiatives (or strategies)?
As it is impossible to change the industrial infrastructures in the short term, we need to decrease the breakeven and adapt our structures for the short term. On the mid-term, the different markets will gradually recover but at a slower pace compared to normative levels.
Overall the family agreed on reducing dividends this year, despite a good 2019 year, in order to protect the sustainability of the family business

One of your core values manifests itself in the relationship with the territory. What are your responsibilities as ambassadors of this territory in this context?
We will take all the necesssary measures including difficult ones but with a consideration for the local and the responsibility for the long term. Given the commitments of all our employees we were the first to be able to start again the production and delivery in March to ensure the continuity of our customers programs.

How are your preparing for the post-crisis phase, in line with medium or long-term challenges the family business will be facing?
With the work sharing program, we try to protect the ability for a short recovery with all the forces we have built for many years. Thanks to our cautious management we are strong enough financially to survive these difficult times.

In the past few weeks we had a good opportunity to stop and listen to ourselves. With a positive attitude, is it possible to see this crisis as an opportunity to improve our personal lives and businesses? If yes, how?
It is difficult to avoid thinking of the business hardly hit. In addition, the teams and myself are clearly 100% focused on the turnaround including crisis management. I do not believe there is another world really balanced between real economy and more comfort. The day of tomorrow will be close to the current one.