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Hands on the Wheel, It’s a Long Road

May 4, 2009 • History Factory

Right now, it seems like everyone is thinking of the short term. What can we do without right now so we can make it through the recession? What can be divested to improve our bottom line this quarter? But while the answers to these questions can mean the difference between squeaking through and succumbing to failure, they aren’t the best practices that will ensure a long and secure future.

The Financial Times highlights one company that is making long-term decisions even in the midst of today’s uncertainty. Family-owned Fergusons Transport is used to disregarding conventional wisdom. As the Times reports, Fergusons founder Matthew Ferguson got his start-up capital by selling his home.

More than eighty years later, Matthew’s grandson Alan, who is now the company’s executive chairman, credits Fergusons’ success to that sort of flexible thinking. But being able to adapt has not meant changing company strategy in the face of adversity. “It’s very old fashioned but in the current climate it’s a good way of doing things,” Ferguson said.

At The History Factory, we find that companies making choices for the long term are the ones who typically see the best results. The auto insurer that campaigns for traffic safety legislation. The energy company that searches for clean, renewable sources. Or, in Fergusons’ case, the transport company that leads “the ‘blue line’ campaign to get an unbroken motorway connection from London to Edinburgh.” That campaign is still in progress, but Alan Ferguson isn’t concerned: “‘These things take a little time.’”

He’s right. But while results of this kind likely won’t come right now, or this quarter, when they do come, they’ll be worthwhile. The companies that make these decisions aren’t planning solely for this recession. It’s not the first one they’ve seen, and, if they keep planning for the future, it won’t be the last.


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