One question I find myself asking frequently has been “what are you most
optimistic about”?  Personally, I’m most optimistic about the opportunities that come from crises during times like this.

Historically, many businesses have been born out of these opportunities. In 1932, SC Johnson, a family company, introduced a new product called Glo-Wax at the height of the Great Depression. Herbert Fisk Johnson, then the C.E.O. of the company, asked his national retailers to sell this low priced product to families in need. If it didn’t sell they could return it to S.C. Johnson at no cost to themselves. The products sold, and S.C. Johnson the brand was secured for generations to come.

Today, Purell hand sanitizer is certainly a household name. However, very few people had heard about it until the 2001 anthrax scare. Purell is manufactured by GoJo, a family business. Many family businesses and privately held companies have shifted their manufacturing lately to produce hand sanitizers, PPE’s, ventilators, and all manner of goods associated with the effort.

At a community level, Andy Duback, proprietor of Duback Photography and someone who has photographed many of our Smith Family Business initiative events, saw 3 months of business evaporate overnight. Rather than sit idle, Andy reached out to his neighbors and offered free family portraits in their yards taken from a safe social distance. Over 130 families signed up. He documented it on his website and the state of Vermont caught wind of this and is now working with Andy to archive his work as part of “The life in Vermont during the pandemic” series.

Personally, I feel this time presents us all with an opportunity to slow down, to communicate better, and to connect with friends, family, and colleagues in new and creative ways. Over the coming weeks, we want to introduce Valuable Vantage Points. These are insights and perspectives from our Cornell faculty, our Cornell Family Business Scholars, our students, alumni, and business owners, and an opportunity to hear from them in their own voice. We hope you enjoy the series and we hope to hear
from you soon. Please stay well and stay safe.

VIDEO: Optimism


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