During these unprecedented times, businesses across the country are doing their best to adapt to the mandates imposed across counties and states that are aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Businesses of all sizes and in all sectors are enforcing face covering requirements, providing additional sanitation to their facilities, and ensuring staff is kept safe and healthy.
That said, while these mandates and safety precautions have forced a new normal, family businesses are presented with an opportunity to unite as a family and build their businesses back stronger. Family businesses are unique—often most employees are family members. This fact can be both an asset and a hardship in the time of a pandemic.
Employing family members is a strength because, as a family business, you share common goals and want the business to thrive. On the other hand, it can be a challenge because if the family business is struggling financially as a result of state and local mandates, it is likely that those burdens impact the entire family.
Additionally, if one member of the family business has contracted COVID-19, then it is very possible that close family members' health may also be at risk. Nonetheless, as the short-term and long-term impacts of COVID-19 continue to develop, it is essential that your family business finds ways to adapt to this new normal, not only to continue to operate but also to thrive.
Proactive Leadership Incorporating Creative Thinking Is a Must
Facing the challenges of implementing new safety mandates and the likely decrease in revenue and operating hours, family business owners must make cautious efforts to sustain unity among their family and employees and ensure they do not overlook their commitments to business goals. New ways of doing things will be rewarded—for example, setting up Zoom meetings to connect with the whole team, adjusting and realigning business goals, showing willingness to change operations, assisting employees with furloughs and layoffs, and utilizing the strengths of each member of the team.
One of the greatest assets of owning a family business is that more often than not, your team is your family. Everyone wants and needs the business to succeed, and if presented with the opportunity to showcase their skills, many will step up and do so. For example, if your family restaurant or bar has moved to takeout orders, perhaps a family member may step forward with strong skills in website and social media marketing.
Create a COVID-19 Values and Response Plan
What does that mean? Well, many businesses owners recognize that COVID-19 is not just impacting them alone. It affects consumers, workers, and investors as well.
As a result, family businesses cannot be narrow-minded in their approach of moving their operations forward. We are seeing more and more businesses find ways to help others by utilizing their resources to give back to the community. In doing so, those businesses are also making a public statement and showing their community a value system that many will likely support and admire.
When your family business has values beyond financial results, such as giving your time or knowledge to the community or formulating partnerships with other family business owners, those can be motivating factors. Simply consider formulating an action plan, even small steps, that align your business values with assisting the community in this crisis.
Acknowledge That This Is a Stressful Time and Find Ways to Manage the Situation
Often, family businesses are operated to support the family over generations. This is what makes family businesses unique—the team is your family. They are the people who often cause us the most stress and also the ones who are there to make stressful times more manageable.
Acknowledging that this is a stressful time is fundamental in order to find ways to manage it. Know that COVID-19 is an experience new to all of us. Likely, young family members are adjusting to remote learning, elderly family members are feeling isolated as they quarantine, and everyone in between is going through their own hardships.
The usual ways of managing stress are not enough. Find ways to bring your family together—perhaps a social distancing get-together with masks at a park, a zoom family business yoga session, or delivering baked goods or a heartwarming package to their front doors simply to check in. Forgive each other more quickly, knowing that the new normal is causing more stress.
Research has shown that family businesses are more likely to be resilient in times of unprecedented hardship and unexpected events. The reasons for this are simple.
First, effective family businesses care about each and every member of their team because they are, more often than not, family. Second, family businesses tend to be innovative, and they want their business to survive and thrive for future generations. Finally, many sources would agree that family businesses are the glue in most local and regional economies, welcoming customers and consumers with a value system built on family first, which is often more trusted and relied upon in hard times.
As your family business adjusts to this new normal, find ways to come out stronger than ever before.
The facts, laws, and regulations regarding COVID-19 are developing rapidly. Since the date of publication, there may be new or additional information not referenced in this advisory. Please consult with your legal counsel for guidance.
DWT will continue to provide up-to-date insights and virtual events regarding COVID-19 concerns. Our most recent insights, as well as information about recorded and upcoming virtual events, are available at www.dwt.com/COVID-19.