By Pooja Deva ’22
|Anand Bhatia ’16||Vice President, Bhatia Development Organization|
|Alice Chen ’05||CEO, Tawa Group|
|Scott Mitchell||Ladies Store Manager, Richards of Greenwich, Mitchell Stores|
|Joshua Baron||Adjunct Professor of Management, Columbia Business School|
Leaders in retail, real estate, and spoke about how their businesses pivoted during the pandemic and what the “new normal” looks like.
COVID-19’s Impact on Family Business
For businesses around the world, the spread of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns led to some of the darkest times for family businesses. While many retail and manufacturing companies had to limit their business output, others were deemed essential businesses and stayed open throughout the early months of the shutdowns. Whichever way their companies were impacted, the panelists explained that employees were top of mind for their boards. Panelist Scott Mitchell spoke on how early and frequent communication with his employees, leadership team, and family every day was critical to maintaining not only business output, but morale. “The personal touch is what makes us humans and alike,” said Mitchell. Panelist Anand Bhatia explained that COVID-19 was an eye-opening experience to see that what his company used to think was a “want to have” was actually a ”need to have.” His real estate company invested in software to communicate with his tenants virtually. Bhatia explained that this shift was an incredible way to adjust preferences for customers and employees alike.
Change through COVID-19
Panelist Alice Chen explained “whenever someone was impacted by COVID-19, everyone in our business felt it because each person in a family business feels like family.” Chen explained that this emotion was so strong that it helped her family business (a major Asian supermarket chain) pivot quickly by enabling and empowering teams to make decisions at all levels. Panelists discussed that outside of New York City, finding employees is still a struggle for many businesses. As salary expectations continue to rise on the employee side of the market, family businesses are looking at creative ways to accommodate these demands with an already tight P&L.