Crisis as a Revealer

I’d like to talk about the crisis as a revealer. Indeed, a lot has been said and will be said about the readiness of our governments, of our health systems when the pandemic arrived.

And a little bit will be about the fact that our houses were not in order.

And so I wanted to think about what the crisis revealed about our own houses. I take this expression, “my house is not in order” from the Bible and from a founder who decided he could not go with his cancer. He had to live in order to put his house in order, which meant tackling his succession.

In the case of family businesses, were our business in order? How solid were they financially? A lot of family businesses do not like debt, hence their balance sheets are stronger than others to face the crisis. How solid is our management team? Several family business owners commented that actually they had changed some members of the management teams a while ago. And they were quite happy to see that the new people they had recruited were more creative, innovative, and tackle the crisis better.

But, this took a lot of courage of course to change some of the leaders. How solid is our family? How united is it? One family business leader commented that he had a meeting with the family council, and he felt there a strong support and they were united behind him and behind the business. But this did not come by chance, he had worked for many, many years, organizing in advance, forming a family council, asking for their advice, etc. And he was now receiving some of the fruits of his work.

Last but not least, how did we react to the crisis? What did it reveal about ourselves, our readiness to accept this pandemic? Of course, our circumstances are all very different. As far as I’m concerned, I did enjoy very much the fact that we can work remotely with IT tools, not traveling as much as did before. And I do intend to keep that in the future. I mean some of it, obviously.

What about you? How were your businesses? How were your owners and your family and yourself? What did you discover and what do you want to do differently in the future? What has this crisis revealed to you?

Christine Blondel is a Cornell Family Business Fellow Adjunct Professor of Family Business at INSEAD, where she co-directs the one-week programme for business families : « The Family Enterprise Challenge ». She coordinated INSEAD family enterprise activities from their creation in January 1997 until December 2007 – she was the first Executive Director of the Wendel International Centre for Family Enterprise.

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