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Lessons from Businesses that Last

Multi-generational family businesses learn to expect economic disruptions. In the last century, there have been many: world wars, the Great Depression, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the 2008 recession, and now the COVID-19 health crisis. If your business is decades old or has moved through generations, you’ve already survived at least one of these significant events. 

We can learn a lot from businesses that have pulled through such challenging disruptions.

My family’s business is 71 years old, and we have had to pull through a few turbulent times. Doing so has helped us develop the stamina to face this current crisis with optimism instead of getting mired down by fear. 

Here are four strategies to help you maintain your long-term view during this short-term crisis.

Keep Your Eyes on the Horizon

Business owners who are committed to a multi-generational model have the liberty of being able, even during times of crisis, to maintain a long-term view. Decisions are made for what is in the best long-term interests of customers and employees, rather than the next quarterly or annual earnings report. Multigenerational businesses recognize the important role employees play in sustaining the business, and often consider employees’ long-term welfare before profits. 

By focusing your eyes on a distant horizon and keeping key stakeholders in mind, decisions about how to navigate the immediate future can become clearer.

Think Creatively

Without freedom of mobility, we can’t offer our goods and services in the same way. Worldwide, leaders across all sectors are being forced to overcome obstacles to survive. 

Restaurants are learning how to promote and grow takeout services using food delivery technology platforms like GrubHub, DoorDash, and UberEats. Academia is learning new ways of delivering content to students beyond the classroom. Mental healthcare professionals are finding ways to support their clients through online formats, and telemedicine is offering doctors the opportunity to care for patients remotely. Businesses are better understanding the efficiency and effectiveness of virtual meetings utilizing teleconference platforms such as Skype, Zoom, and GoToMeeting. 

We can use this health crisis, and the severe limitations it is placing on all of us, to inspire creative problem solving and reinvigorate the spirit of innovation in our organizations. 

Be Open to New Norms

Many of us are discovering that, in some ways, these new ways are better. As businesses are finding new ways to manage and conduct commerce, sometimes with greater efficiencies and customer satisfaction, consumers are finding easier ways to procure products and services. We must realize that this crisis is redefining “business as usual.” When we come out of this crisis, there will be new norms.

As business leaders, we cannot limit ourselves to thinking only about how to navigate the challenges of the next several weeks or months. We need to be thinking creatively about how this experience could positively impact our business models going forward. 

Prioritize Health

Seldom do we have enough time to prioritize our health. Now, by the nature of this crisis and government orders, we must. We also have to consider how our health impacts the health of everyone around us. While quarantines and shutdowns impact our productivity goals, we can use the extra space in our lives to savor and protect our own health. 

Building our immunities and strengthening our exercise habits has far-reaching benefits beyond this time of crisis. Prioritizing our own health enables us to be vital for those we support in our homes, our communities, and our businesses.

We do not know how long this current COVID-19 crisis will last—at this moment, no government or healthcare leader can accurately predict this. In the short-term, it is our duty to stay informed and follow the best practices and advice given by these leaders. 

Fight your fears by adopting strategies today that help you think more creatively, remain open to change, get healthy, and stay focused on your long-term dreams.