Creative patience

While doing an interview in Madrid, an entrepreneur told me about his everyday effort to keep his business running. At a small restaurant in Buenos Aires, I enjoyed listening to its owner, telling me his stories as an entrepreneur. At a bakery in the heart of Vilnius, a half-French, half-Lithuanian couple worked tirelessly to serve their clients who were not impatient and were waiting to be served. Each of the stories seemed to contradict the messages we get from modern-day society: in order to attain recognition we need to get quick success from economic accumulation and social network visibility, as if people were always looking for their “big break”. But these weren’t stories from Wall Street, or about investing millions, or transitional speculations, or sub-prime mortgages…

Now that I think of it, these stories had something in common, a leitmotiv: creative patience. Creative patience can be defined as the ability of a person to perform continuous small changes in their economic, personal and cultural life to achieve their long-term goals. In the case of these stories, creative ability was used to start, maintain, develop and give continuity to business.

Creativity as a means of survival in personal and business development. Creativity as an engine for change. Creativity as incremental innovation. Successive small steps that help improve the product, service or the way a firm is managed. This accumulation of incremental innovations allows a company to succeed, attract, retain and build customer loyalty.

But in order to make it succeed, creativity as incremental innovations requires a framework that goes beyond short-term goals. A framework to think, evaluate and make decisions. Patience is a prerequisite for incremental innovations.

So what’s the connection to the family firm?

The family business is an environment conducive to the development of creative patience. The stories mentioned at the beginning of this post were references to family firms. A father working with his son, brothers working in partnership, an entrepreneurial couple. The hidden feature, familiarity, doesn’t seem to be an alien concept in the framework of creative patience.

With this, I don’t mean to say that all family firms have the ability to be creative by adding and accumulating incremental changes over time. There are many cases where family firms are passed down from generation to generation, and the firm is able to survive due to the efforts made by the first entrepreneurs, while subsequent generations just make profit from the effort made years before. Regardless of this, family firms usually have a long-term business outlook, they are patient with corporate profits, and are committed locally.

Perhaps the creative patience of family firms plays an important role in the economic development. Long-term incremental changes have three main effects: 1) on the income of the entrepreneur and his family, arising from labor and the capital invested, 2) on the market because it improves the firm’s competitiveness and competition increases making our neighbourhood and town a place to live, and 3) on the community revenues because a financially healthy and competitive firm provides job opportunities and pays taxes.







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