A single woman I once knew, an attorney, had a theory about the process of finding Mr. Right. As dating relationships started to become serious, she made it a habit to schedule adventure filled vacations with her beau. They were not of the comfortable type.
Her belief was that if you can vacation with someone in a place neither of them knew, under sometimes difficult situations, and still want to spend time together, then the experience will bode well for the couples’ ability to deal with life’s travails.
The coronavirus experience has certainly not been a vacation, but on many levels, it has served as a wonderful experiment for owners to learn about their businesses and to measure the quality of their business relationships.
By taking the time to make a deliberate assessment of those relationships during this period of crisis, and having the will to make changes, your family business clients will be able to scratch some meaningful benefit from what otherwise has likely been a very unproductive affair.
Some questions you might invite your clients to ponder: –
Internal Relationships and Observations:
- How has the management team performed? Were there surprises? Did some for whom the owners had high expectation disappoint? Did others within the organization surprise by the way they extended themselves?
- Were talent gaps revealed. Were you forced to rely on outside professionals to bolster inadequate in-house talent?
- What did your employees learn about you? Did you communicate well and with adequate frequency?
- Have you been forced to rely on critical information to manage during the COVID period which you now realize you should have been tracking all along? Who should have been responsible for making you aware of such?
- Have you come to realize, by the way business was conducted during COVID, that some of your prior assumptions about what was necessary for proper operations have been proven false (e.g., travel, work-on-site, etc.)? What opportunities now present themselves based upon this new understanding?
- If you have a non-fiduciary council of advisors or a fiduciary board of directors, how did the members perform? Were they more involved or less during the crisis? Did they represent a sense of security? Did they serve to enhance management response?
External Relationships and Observations:
- Did business partners perform like “business partners,” or something less?
- Did your outside professionals reach out to you to see how you were faring and inquire whether they might help? When you needed to reach out to them, were they responsive in a timely way?
- Did you feel adequately informed with respect to the governmental programs made available to respond to the crisis?
- Was your lender present and available? Were you left with a sense that your lender was invested in your business’s well-being?
- Was there productive, collaborative, and transparent dialogue with your major suppliers, or were you simply dunned concerning your aging trade payables as though it was business as usual?
- Were there vulnerabilities in your supply chain which you had not properly considered?
- Had you been managing your vendor relationships optimally? Did you have high-level pre-existing relationships at the ready which you were able to draw upon?
- What did you learn about your relationships with your customers during this period? And what did they learn about you?
- Does your organization have the right customer contacts at various levels within both organizations?
- Did you have to contact your insurance professionals, or did they reach out to you?
If this crisis has been good for nothing else, it has served as a great measure which, used properly, will allow your clients to make necessary changes which will improve performance by increasing the team batting average.
Never let a crisis pass without taking full advantage of the experience.
That single woman is now a happily married mother of two. Thanks for the lesson, counsellor.
Until next time …