Reading time – a little longer than usual – about 1:56 . . .
Peggy Noonan’s piece in the May 7 Wall Street Journal told of a need for hope to get us out of our malaise and get this economic train chugging forward. She interviewed Ken Langone, a founder of Home Depot.
“We’re not gonna be the same.” he said. “We’re gonna be challenged like never before, but we will pass the test with flying colors. . . . Capitalism brought America to the party. It’s what [sic] gonna get us out of this mess.”
But a “big readjustment” in business thinking will be needed to get through the crisis. If a restaurant reopens with half as many customers due to distancing protocols, the owner will have to hike prices, but that will hurt business. The answer is that the landlord needs to lower the restaurant’s rent, and the landlord’s lenders need to adapt in turn. “The financial chain’s gotta be readjusted, concessions up and down the line.”
This is going to take a lot of American ingenuity, our individual and collective creativity, to create our new normal, the new successful tomorrow. Does that sound daunting? This isn’t the first time we’ve had to do this.
I was preparing to deliver a keynote to an association in 2009 during the depths of the Great Recession and attended the wine swilling mixer the evening before the conference opened. I used that time to informally interview business owner attendees to learn how they were handling the cratering of our economy and what they were doing to prepare for the Great Recovery. Almost to a person they were hunkered down waiting for yesterday to magically reappear.
If you’re doing that now, staring into the rear view mirror waiting for those lovely miles behind you to arrive in your windshield, you’re a buggy whip manufacturer listening for the horses to arrive. It just isn’t going to happen. Yesterday won’t be back and creating tomorrow demands ever more creativity from you.
They didn’t tell you this when you agreed to become a leader, but it’s always been your job to drive creativity. It’s just that doing a good job of that right now is critical.
Anne Smart is the Director of the Loyola University Family Business Center in Chicago. In her recent post she wrote about the challenges – some of them so very difficult – of running a family business in this time of COVID-19. She wrote,
“My family tells a story about my mother exclaiming (maybe not so gently): “Hey! You don’t get to give up!” to one of her adult children facing a parenting challenge of their own. This exhortation is just what I need to hear when tempted to give in to discouragement.”
We’re living in tough times that call upon your abilities, perhaps like never before. And that’s good news, because summoning your best is a challenge that is worthy of you. Besides, you’re a leader and others are counting on you – you signed up for that – and Anne’s mom was right, that you don’t get to give up. So go get your team and figure this out.
That’s where the hope we all need will come from.
Many thanks to Anne Smart for permission to post her comments – and her mom’s.
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