Business plans – like all plans – can go awry when events beyond the control of the business owner disrupt the everyday routine.
Such disruptions could be because of a dip in the economy, a natural disaster that creates havoc, a shift in the public’s buying habits, or new technology that can do what you do better.
“Interruptions within a business are as much a part of life as breathing and blinking,” says Raméz Baassiri, author of Interrupted Entrepreneurship: Embracing Change in the Family Business. “They are viewed by some as hiccups, challenges, or even crises.”
Baassiri, a board member of AHB Group, a multinational and multigenerational family business, says such moments can prove deadly to a family business, which about 80 percent of all businesses in the United States are. But those disruptions also can be the catalyst for even greater success, depending on how they are handled.
He says a few things family businesses can do when life upends the daily routine include:
- Don’t just adapt to change, embrace it. “Every family business has dealt with and will deal with interruptions, from the expected changes and challenges of growth to the unexpected interruptions resulting from loss and poor decision-making, and everything in between,” Baassiri says. “You must be ready to accept and even embrace such changes as they come, to get creative with them and use them as a catalyst for improvement.
- Find your “Mass Transformative Purpose.” Think about the way in which your company plans to change the world. In other words, why does your business exist? “Knowing that can help you stay focused and overcome seemingly impossible obstacles when they arise,” Baassiri says. “The first time I was asked what our family business’s main purpose was, I replied that it was to ‘stay united as a family with a purpose.’ But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that our purpose isn’t just about family; it’s more than that. It’s to be good citizens, contribute to society, and create educational opportunity. We strive to work hard to achieve great things so that we will be able to give back to society.”
- Turn challenges into opportunities. Missed opportunities and failures to turn interruptions in entrepreneurship into positive change abound in the business world. One famous example is how Blockbuster turned down the purchase of Netflix in 2000 for $50 million. Netflix was valued at more than $32 billion only 15 years later. “As much as we may tell ourselves that we need to think beyond how well our company is doing today and plan for future opportunities, it’s much easier to stick with the path that we’re familiar with,” Baassiri says. “Disruption is uncomfortable, but it’s necessary if we’re going to evolve.”
- Hire a diverse team for your business. “You can get stuck in your comfort zone because you see the same things every day and revolve in the same circles,” Baassiri says. “You need an extra set of eyes looking at the company from other angles and letting you know where your weak links are and where you can grow. Of course you won’t always agree, but that’s healthy; it means you’re being challenged.”
“Controversial thoughts are where innovation thrives,” Baassiri says. “They were the origin of the telephone and the car, the airplane, and spaceships. By asking questions, by thinking beyond the given and looking at the possible (or even the impossible), we grow, and in growing, we thrive despite the disruptions.”