In 1985, our family business – MacKenzie – started in a bonus room home office. In 2019, we were inducted into the Cal State Fullerton Center for Family Business Hall of Fame. Having celebrated our 35th anniversary last year, it was a good time to reflect on our journey from then-to-now.
In addition to our internal review of lessons learned, challenges overcome, and successes achieved, we were invited by the Family Business Alliance to share our experiences with chapters across the country. In preparing for this virtual even, we produced a more formal, organized presentation of our journey which continues serving as a reminder of what will be needed to achieve another 35 years of growth and evolution.
With the new year upon us, we are sharing a few key takeaways from our journey to this point in order to inspire your journey moving forward.
It goes without saying, we are living in unprecedented times. However, that is not to say unpredictable and challenging times are anything new. The 1980’s gave us the Cold War, groundbreaking tech advancements, and an economic recession not seen since World War II. The 1990’s had social unrest, political scandals, and the World Wide Web. In the 2000’s we experienced major natural disasters, financial crises, and a rise in global terrorism. All these events changed the world as we knew it, yet we persevered and found ways to navigate through the uncertainty.
We learned from the past, adapted to the present, and prepared for the future.
Today, this approach is just as applicable and effective as it was back then. One consistent theme throughout time is our desire and need for strong leaders who shine a light, lead the way, take risks, rise above, and show compassion. A major difference between now and then is that today we have an opportunity to be those leaders. We get to forge a path forward and do so with grace, knowing from our own experiences how powerful and inspiring those figures can be.
For those of us who are up for the challenge, we focus our attention on the big question – how do we forge a path into an unknown, uncertain, and unpredictable future? Unfortunately, there is no blueprint or definitive answer, so we approach this phase of our journey as we have all the others:
Embrace whatever comes next.
1. Embrace the CLIMB.
One of the all-time great clutch performers – Babe Ruth – said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” This powerful mentality and mantra is a strong foundation on which long-term success can be built. Accept difficult times for what they are; inevitable AND temporary. Embrace the climb and focus on that which is within your circle of influence.
2. Embrace the MESS.
Uncertainty is a constant. Yesterday’s rules no longer apply today, and neither do yesterday’s solutions. So, we adjust our gaze and time horizons to envision the completed puzzle rather than the scattered pieces. We focus on what can be done today rather than what was not done yesterday. With our mental energy projected forward we move with purpose and strive for progress. Meanwhile, we hold an attitude of gratitude. Despite the “crazy” which fights for our attention, there is good to be found for those who are looking.
3. Embrace the REALITY.
Do not mistake an attitude of gratitude with delusion or self-deception. Awareness and acceptance of where we stand today is required for sincere gratitude. Only by establishing our present reality – and being honest about it – are we able to address the challenges at hand. We must clearly understand the problems that need solutions, the questions that need answers, and the obstacles that need to be overcome. Be brave and face the world head-on so that you are steering the ship through the storm rather than drifting wherever the wind blows.
4. Embrace the CHANGE.
We do not operate in a vacuum. The world is in a constant state of flux, so we must respond accordingly. By looking outside of ourselves we maintain the perspective and context needed to make informed, intentional decisions. How we operate today is a choice. Growth and innovation are choices as well. The external changes we endure will shape and influence our decisions, but they should not dictate or determine them. This approach has sparked a fascination with futurism and the practice of envisioning possible tomorrows. Of course, the future cannot be predicted, but we can ponder how different scenarios might take shape and how we would respond if that scenario came became reality. In doing so, we are proactively embracing the idea of change rather than reacting after it happens.
5. Embrace the FEEDBACK.
As leaders during times of uncertainty, it is important that we check in with those around us. As parents and spouses, we must listen to our families. As business owners, we must listen to our customers and team members. We are moving forward together as a whole, so empowering others with a meaningful voice will benefit everyone. While people want to be heard and feel understood, they will not always be the ones to speak up or reach out. So, part of leading is initiating dialogue and presenting opportunities for communication. The growth process is more sustainable through collaboration because everyone brings a unique perspective. The idea we did not have may be the spark that ignites the innovation we have been looking for.
6. Embrace the ADVENTURE.
Occasionally we need to step back and loosen the tethers. While it is good to have solid ideas and a plan of action to follow, if we become too attached those plans and ideas, they might become anchors weighing us down. Maintain a sense of freedom and agility by responding to life as it happens. As the saying goes, growth happens beyond the comfort zone. Being open and vulnerable is not always enjoyable, but that is how we expand our mindset and evolve our perspective. Sometimes all we can do is embrace the call to adventure and enjoy the ride.
While it feels good to have 2020 in our rear view, we are appreciative of the lessons and reminders that have strengthened our resolve. We are approaching 2021 with the confidence of knowing we have weathered past storms and excitement for all the opportunities that lie ahead. By embracing whatever comes our way, the possibilities are endless.
Onward and upward.