Businesses Have Undergone Trauma--How to Adapt and Survive
For many businesses, the past year has been little more than triage--small, often family-run businesses like salons, restaurants, and independent shops in particular have faced special difficulties in the face of suppressed business. Staff cuts, changes to hours of operation, and full closures for months at a time have forced many to adapt to this survival mode, and this trauma thinking can cloud judgment as businesses begin to return to normal. Business operators will need to step back and question their own questions: If you’re constantly worrying about if you can afford to bring back an employee, reframe it as “will this employee help generate more income?” If you’re trying to justify a previous business expense that was put on pause during the past year to save money, remind yourself why you invested in it in the first place and if it will be useful as business picks back up. The answer may not be “yes” every time, but it’s helpful to be reminded that austerity measures won’t always be the best way to jump-start business growth after a difficult year. Conversely, some industries have seen massive growth during the past year, and those business operators need to be realistic that “going back to normal” may require planning for a loss in business and subsequent cuts in spending.
Bringing the Business Back to Business Families
The pandemic has not only affected the bottom line; it’s also dramatically altered workplace norms and cultures. After a year of working from home, many people will find difficulty in things they once found second-nature--working from an office, dressing professionally every day, dealing with common workplace frictions, etc. While there’s no single piece of advice that can help make this transition smooth, simply being aware of the stress and anxiety it may cause can help people better prepare.
For business families, this return to a normal business culture can be especially difficult: Families that have worked hard over the years to build healthy work-home boundaries, maintain professional standards with family members they work alongside, and create institutional structure in the workplace may find that those have fallen by the wayside as everyone focused on survival. As businesses regain a sense of normalcy, it’s more important now than ever before to refocus on healthy family business practices: regular family meetings, organized succession plans, and a commitment to a Common Family
Vision™. If you’re a business family that’s spent significant time and effort building a functional work environment, don’t let that falter as the world changes around you.
What is the “New Normal?”
Of course, we’ve spoken at length about a return to normalcy, but we also need to stress that there may never be a full “return” to the way things were. Over the past year, many businesses have successfully adapted and seen their teams work tremendously well using technology, work settings, and organizational structures they never thought possible, and may be in no hurry to give up the changes they’ve found positive. This is fine, and no business should feel pressured to revert away from workplace changes that are clearly beneficial. But every employee has their own preferences and priorities, and even maintaining these new practices may create friction, turnover, and management difficulty; any business doing so needs to be aware and prepare their team for this new reality.
As the world slowly lurches out of a year-long stasis, any business lucky & smart enough to have survived now needs to set sights on the future, including a return to old challenges and the emergence of new, unforeseen difficulties. For more advice on moving forward after this difficult year, pick up The Soul of the Family Business by Tom Hubler. Through personal anecdotes, real-world case studies, useful tools and frameworks, and more, Hubler offers an in-depth look at the challenges faced, strategies employed, and successes achieved by all sorts of family businesses. You can pick up The Soul of the Family Business, available in hardcover form on Amazon.com, directly through Itasca Books, or at a bookstore near you. And of course, if you’re ready to take the next steps, you can always contact Hubler for Business Families today.