This is the latest in a series of podcasts, web news reports and feature stories that are part of Family Business Focus, a partnership between MEAT+POULTRY and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI). MEAT+POULTRY and NAMI’s family business task force have joined forces to provide information and resources to help family-held companies survive and thrive.

KANSAS CITY, MO. – The mettle of business owners and operators of all types and sizes has perhaps never been tested more than during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While many companies may have previously had some semblance of a crisis plan in place for unlikely circumstances that could affect their business operations, almost nobody could have predicted the devastating and widespread impact a global pandemic would have. In this week’s MEAT+POULTRY Podcast, Craig Aronoff, PhD, co-founder and principal consultant of Chicago-based Family Business Consulting Group, discusses how in many ways, crisis management in a family owned and operated business can make or break the company and family bonds.   

“We're not talking about executives that are working for boards of directors that represent hundreds or thousands of shareholders,” Aronoff said. “We're talking about folks who own the business, who interact with each other daily.

In family businesses almost every decision and planning process is personal to the family owners whose considerations extend to their relationships with individual employees and even their customers.

Aronoff explained how coping with a crisis can be very different for a first-generation company versus a more established, multi-generational business. However, for all types and sizes of businesses, family-owned or otherwise, considering a wide range of scenarios and agreeing on responses to crisis situations by effectively communicating to employees and customers is critical. 

Those responses are often more easily reached when a family-owned business has an established mission statement that serves as a guideline when challenges arise. And when a crisis is the magnitude of a pandemic, all family owners should assume an “all-hands-on-deck” mentality.

“We start with families and say, look, you really need to be on the same page; you really need to understand what you're trying to accomplish,” Aronoff said. “You need to talk these things through, and you need to have a clearer view of how you relate with each other.”

Reflection after the storm clouds pass in the wake of a crisis is perhaps the most valuable part of the crisis-management process, he said.

“When it's all over with, you know, you catch your breath and you say, ‘that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger.’

“The lessons that could be learned in circumstances like those impacting businesses today, could have positive impacts for a century,” Aronoff said.

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