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This is the fifth in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.


Adversity introduces us to ourselves, as the saying goes. Adversity is actually an opportunity. We discover unexpected strengths and resources when we’re faced with difficulties. This is true in business just as it is in our personal lives.

The pandemic is unquestionably adverse for business. Writing in Forbes, Dana Gerdman recommends examining business adversity from these points of view:

  1. Identify those areas where you and your team can have an influence. Can you revise your business model to fit within the new community health parameters? Can you put modified workflows in place to promote safety? Control what you’re able to control, and don’t waste resources on things you can’t control.
  2. Think about how you can step up to address the problem, and what encouragement and support you can give to others so the entire team is involved. Communication is vital during adversity. Make sure everyone understands their part in meeting the challenge, and use technology (Zoom, etc.) to promote team cohesion.
  3. Look at the size of the problem, and what steps you can take – even if they’re small ones – that will make a difference. Curing a pandemic may not be practical for your business, but you can certainly move to ensure your staff’s safety. WFH (work from home) has suddenly become the standard for many in the service sector. Support WFH by providing document imaging and home office equipment – a useful step to keep staff healthy and help end the pandemic.
  4. Every problem has an end. We may not know when a cure or a vaccine will be discovered, but we can make accommodations to remain productive in the interim. Now is the time to make sure your business has productivity tools for the present, and for the future. Asset management systems like RFID support productivity with social distancing tools for the short term, and inventory and process management both now and in the long term. Invest in systems that can take you through the current adversity and remain useful long after the problem is solved.

When we face adversity, we have a chance to be our best. Historians point to World War II as a time when America faced tremendous adversity, and we discovered how great our collective strength was – the Greatest Generation. Take on the current adverse conditions and discover the greatness within yourself and your business.

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