Owner-managers of Flemish growth companies more closely involved in operational policy once again due to Covid-19

More than one year after the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, managers of Flemish growth companies are gradually looking to the future once again. A future in which quite a few things will change profoundly, it turns out. Owner-managers themselves indicate that a different leadership style is imperative and that their role within the company is shifting to more operational tasks. The sales function is also undergoing a far-reaching transformation as a result of digitisation. On the other hand, the pandemic also provided an incentive for the sustainable development of many new and innovative products.


This is evident from a survey of 130 owner-managers of established Flemish growth companies from a wide range of sectors. They are all members of the Growth Management for Medium-Sized Enterprises Impulse Centre (iGMO) at Vlerick Business School. The survey was conducted by professor Hans Crijns and researcher Yannick Dillen.

The biggest changes are expected in the sales function, as sales in a post-coronavirus era will primarily take place digitally. Shifts are also expected for Operations, IT and HR, although to a lesser extent.

Furthermore, 1 in 3 surveyed owner-managers indicate that they resumed more operational tasks (such as budget control, sales management and communication) during the pandemic.

6 out of 10 also intend to manage their business in a different way in the future. This is closely linked with the changes in their way of working: almost 75% of managers are preparing for permanent changes, especially in the areas of teleworking and meeting culture.

Yannick Dillen: “After a decade of steady growth, many owner-managers had taken a step back from the day-to-day operational policy. However, Covid-19 made them realise that greater involvement in the day-to-day management also entails benefits. This mainly concerns matters such as more direct communication with employees, attending important sales meetings, overseeing internal structures and processes, etc. Covid-19 proved that relaxing on the sidelines can be dangerous when an exceptional event with major consequences occurs.”

Other interesting findings:

  • 70% of companies are examining possible changes in customer preferences as a result of the pandemic 
  • Nearly 50% of companies launched new, innovative products or services during the pandemic that will generate sustainable revenue in the long term 
  • Good news for employment, as only 2% of owner-managers indicate that they plan to dismiss employees in the coming year

Yannick Dillen concludes: “There will undoubtedly be many more uncertain years ahead, as everyone will have to adapt to this new reality. However, one thing is certain: the pandemic has made entrepreneurs more resilient. Those who have successfully withstood this storm will undoubtedly also manage to keep their heads above water in the years ahead.”

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Yannick Dillen

Yannick Dillen

Professor of Entrepreneurship