Change and identity

Who you and your company are today won’t be the same in the future

Change gets a lot of attention. At some point, companies and people bump right up against something that forces them to leave behind what or who they were and become something they’ve never been.

How someone handles change is a defining characteristic. Is change avoided until it can’t be dodged? Is it met head-on as soon as it’s recognized?

Businesses, especially those that have existed for many decades, are in a strange place when it comes to change. They have their history to lean on as a guide when making decisions, relying on the way things have always been done to determine how they will be done. But they will inevitably encounter situations in which their history is an unreliable compass. When that happens, it’s the responsibility of leadership to steer the company into and through uncharted territory.

Treading into the unknown may represent an opportunity to get ahead of the competition, be the first to market. That could mean buying new equipment or a new building, creating new lines of business or hiring new employees. It could also mean dropping a line of business that had been a staple since the company’s inception, or laying off employees who had worked there for years.

For leaders of family companies, a business change also may mean a change in personal identity as the company prepares itself to meet new challenges.

These companies were formed by a distant relative and have been built up in the family’s image for generations. Changing direction doesn’t just mean exploring new business opportunities, it means turning off the path set for it by mothers, fathers and great-grandparents whose advice and approval often can’t be gotten.

Within change is risk. There’s a gamble involved that may or may not pay off. And if it doesn’t, what’s at stake? The company’s future? Or something more?

Adam is interested in the people and businesses making a difference in Akron/Canton.