Martha’s Advice to Businesses in this Time of Crisis

May 11, 2020

business history

As this pandemic undermines our personal and organizational well-being, Martha Matilda Harper’s strategic approach to business and personal success would guide us forward.  Her life was full of crisis, examples include when she:

-was bound out into servitude at age seven

-immigrated from Canada to Rochester , NY as a poor servant

-protected her mistress from Mrs. Roberts’ alcoholic husband.

-once in business, ran counter to society’s demand for dangerous hair dyes and chemicals since Martha refused to carry them in her franchise empire.

– faced down the Great Depression with an innovative strategy for her 500  Harper shops worldwide.

Reviewing Harper’s advice to her franchisees in a Harper newsletter  entitled, “Let’s Talk the Depression Over”  shows us how to proceed. She urged:

fair play for employees – Martha urged shop owners to give employees time off to take care of the families.  Today, she would urge shop owners to remember employees and help them through this crisis with heart, safety precautions, and innovative thinking and treatment.

flexible work hours and pay –  Martha suggested extending shop hours to evenings to accommodate other workers and patrons needs in this time of crisis. However, for every evening hour worked, Harper suggested giving two hours off to employees’ day schedule.  Today, Martha would  similarly suggest applying creative work hours and incentivizing the targeted work hours with time off.

building teamwork – Martha talked about sponsoring evening dinner meetings for staff to encourage the esprit de corps.  Today,  she would urge consideration of using technology and sensitive follow-up(notes, gift cards, gifts)  to  keep employees feeling connected and loyal.

creative pricing -Martha always wanted the Harper shops to be viewed as the top of the line, but during the Depression she urged tactical pricing.  Lower prices for Monday morning and for teachers.  Today Martha would suggest offering first responders and health care providers discounts, flexible hours that responded to first responders’ shifts.

quality reassurance – Martha always wanted her shops viewed as safe places, which is why she would not allow dangerous hair dyes and chemicals.  She used this distinction as a marketing tool, promoting the Harper Method as the only safe place where all products were organic and health based.  Today Martha would urge businesses to capitalize on healthy practices.  Develop distinctive competence and promote it.

Martha stated back then, “I am a strong believer in the Gospel of Discontent because…(b)eing satisfied is a sure sign of decline.”    She observed with pride that not a single Harper shop closed during the Great Depression.

May Martha’s wisdom keep your organization responsive and healthy!

 

 

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