Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste: Maximizing Positive Change in Trying Times
A few weeks ago on the blog The Anxiety Trap: From the Usual Concerns to Pandemic Uncertainties, I talked a little about the changing nature of anxiety that I am observing in the enterprising families that I work with. While it is absolutely important to look at and address those anxieties - and I suggested a primary strategy for coping is to face them head on - it reminded me of another perspective that may never be as important to think about than right now. It sounds simple, but it is key: never let a good crisis go to waste.
The Potential Inside the Catastrophe
To be certain, taking a deep breath and giving yourself, your family, and your coping strategies a break during this time is important. Taking some space to recognize that what we are facing is - as we have heard countless times from every corner over the last year - completely unprecedented in our lifetimes, can mean the difference between carrying on and giving up.
Yet the scope of this landscape doesn’t have to be a place of despair and gloom. There is so much potential in this unprecedented time, an absolute world of opportunity. The strongest enterprises are not strong because of how they operate when times are good, their strength is most clear when times are very difficult. While we face an uncertain, unpredictable reality, there is great creative possibility to build more robust scaffolding and create durable structures that can withstand generation upon generation of stress tests and trials.
Take transition and continuity planning as an example. If the social, political, and economic crises of 2020 have made you look at the rising generation in your family with concern about their ability to face challenges like those we are all now addressing, then this shows you a pathway towards the future. Do they need more leadership training? Are they getting the right education, and moving towards the positions that suit their skills and abilities best? Do they know how to make decisions and take on responsibility? How are you facilitating their growth so they can be the best kinds of leaders?
Or, let’s think about it from the perspective of your business model. If, in the face of a dramatically changing economy, your business model is breaking down, this is an opportunity to build something that can more flexibly adapt. Over generations, your family and its enterprises will inevitably have to face shifting economic landscapes. The endurance of your family system, wealth, and business ventures are not defined by your capacity to build models that stay their course through every storm, but ones that can shift direction when circumstances demand it. It may not feel like it, but there is no better opportunity than right now. What better time to innovate, adapt, and test your ideas than when we are in the thick of what may be the biggest crisis of a generation.
Innovate to Adapt
This is the time to plan. To get excited. To try out ideas, and focus on innovation. To ask difficult questions, and use lockdowns and the slowed-pace from social distancing to begin to work toward solutions and forward momentum. Counterintuitively, now is not the worst time to plan and build, it is the best time. Looking at where things are breaking down for your business(es), family system, or wealth is the best place to start: this shows you where the work needs to happen first. And with this work, you can build something that doesn’t just survive a trying year, but thrives through whatever other hurdles may come your way for generations to come.
Kathy Bright has worked with family enterprises for nearly twenty years and is an integral part of the Telos Group team. Her range includes hands-on experience with strategy and governance and she has acted as the President and an Officer of the Board for Family Enterprise Canada and Director of the Board of the Business Families Centre at UBC’s Sauder School of Business. Kathy’s interests include leadership, succession and continuity planning, strategy, risk management, governance structures, fiduciary responsibility, and the development and maintenance of positive relationships in family enterprises