PURPOSE: The new situation arising from the COVID-19 pandemic has brought many difficulties for companies worldwide. To combat the pandemic, governments have enforced lockdown and closure of businesses, and in response, companies have developed various reactive strategies to ensure their survival. The purpose of this study is twofold: to examine the impact of COVID-19 on firms and examine firm reactions towards the COVID-19 crisis. The study analyses the impact of COVID-19 on firm size, ownership type, and industry characteristics. Secondly, to analyze firm reactions based on four components: technological preferences, strategic behavior, management practices, and social networks. METHODOLOGY: This study employs a quantitative method, using a survey of 320 firm owners and managers conducted in Kosovo by the Institute of Entrepreneurship and Small Business. FINDINGS: Findings suggest that income dropped significantly for SMEs based on the firm size. Based on industry characteristics, findings show that all industries have been influenced negatively. Regarding the ownership type, findings suggest that family firms are more affected by COVID-19 than non-family firms. Factor analysis suggests that the technological preferences, managerial practices and strategic behavior, and social networks effectively responded to the crisis derived from COVID-19. Findings also suggest that firms did not employ a single reaction (e.g., technological change) but combined several reactions where one reaction led to another reaction that proved effective and led to firm survival during the crisis. IMPLICATIONS: The implications of this study are as follows: firstly, this study examines the impact of COVID-19 and, at the same time, firm reactions to the crisis; secondly, contrary to previous studies, this study shows that all industries have been influenced negatively, including all SMEs; thirdly, this study shows that ownership type was an important factor concerning the impact of COVID-19, where family firms were influenced more than non-family firms; this is due to the distinct characteristic of organizational structure that family firms have, including the involvement of members of family firms. Last, this study shows that a single reaction of firms does not lead to survival, but the chain of reactions combined with dimensions shown above. ORIGINALITY/VALUE: Despite growing theoretical and empirical literature about COVID-19 and firms, this study shows the impact and firm responses towards the crisis of COVID-19. Furthermore, focusing on the context of Kosovo, the study contributes to the challenges that firms face in different cultural and institutional settings.
Keywords: COVID-19 impact, firm reactions, technological preferences, strategic behavior, management practices, social networks, Kosovo