The best investing rewards come from holding your stocks over the long term and watching those businesses grow over time. That said, it's not easy to identify such winning businesses, as many companies may stumble and fall when challenges surface. The COVID-19 pandemic is one such crisis that has tested a wide swath of businesses and severely disrupted a range of sectors.

Two important qualities that I look for in strong businesses are the ability to adapt to crises and the presence of a strategic plan to grow the business over years. The former trait puts the business in good position to withstand acute pressure while taking market share from weaker competitors, while the latter provides a clear roadmap for the company to grow both its revenue and net income. These qualities will enable the business to prosper over time, leading to a higher share price and, often, increasing dividends.

Here are two stocks with those characteristics that I would consider holding forever.

Barista with face mask and apron standing in a cafe.

Image source: Getty Images.

Starbucks

Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) is a familiar name to anyone who's enjoyed a pumpkin spice latte or cup of hot chocolate on the go, with nearly 33,000 coffee shops worldwide. Not only has Starbucks successfully navigated the pandemic by relying on digital sales and new store formats to replace sales lost from temporary store closures, but at its recent biennial Investor Day, it also laid out a clear growth plan to expand its global store base to 55,000 by its fiscal 2030.

Starbucks' global store portfolio is expected to grow by around 6% per year while the company records comparable-store sales growth of between 4% to 5% annually. Most of this growth will come from China, where the company is planning to invest around $130 million to have a total of 6,000 stores by 2022. With the pandemic raging, Starbucks has successfully pivoted to smaller store formats that offer curbside pickup and drive-thru, and plans to expand this from the current 800 stores in the U.S. to nearly 2,000 stores by the end of fiscal 2021 (which just began on Sept. 28).

The company has also done well with its Starbucks Rewards loyalty program, with active Starbucks Rewards membership in the U.S. up 10% year over year to 19.3 million for fiscal 2020. CFO Patrick Grismer has confirmed that Rewards members spend around three times more than those who aren't in the program, so this increase in membership bodes well for the company's top-line growth over time.

Starbucks has just raised store employee pay by around 10%, despite the crisis, and this goes a long way to improving employee morale at a time when many are either losing their jobs or facing stagnant pay prospects. And to cap it off, the company has also announced its tenth consecutive dividend increase, from $1.64 per share to $1.80 per share, signaling confidence in its financial future.

Nike

There's no bigger name in sports footwear and apparel than Nike (NYSE:NKE). The company has displayed a knack for evolving and adapting when faced with challenges, as evidenced by the growth that it reported in its fiscal 2021 second-quarter earnings report. For the period that ended Nov. 30, revenue hit $11.2 billion, up 9% year over year, while net income grew 12% to reach $1.3 billion.

Nike had to temporarily shut the bulk of its stores because of the coronavirus pandemic in the fourth quarter of its fiscal 2020, which ended May 31. Within two quarters, Nike has orchestrated a remarkable turnaround and posted growth, once again, showcasing the resilience of the brand and the company's business model.

CEO John Donahoe believes that Nike's success boils down to two key factors: an innovative culture and product pipeline, and strong brand traction in connecting with customers. Despite the pandemic, the company has continued to introduce well-received new products such as the LeBron XVIII and Kyrie 7 shoes. Leveraging the power of technology and apps, Nike is effectively connected with its customers like never before, with the addition of 70 million new members globally into the Nike Members Program since the pandemic began. Nike membership connects users to exclusive shoes and gear and offers training programs, while its Rewards systems offer benefits and incentives to generate stronger loyalty.

Nike's brand strength is also evident as over 7 billion brand impressions were generated across a multitude of social-media platforms globally, while a Nike-branded YouTube video, "Never Too Far Down," led to a whopping 400 million social engagements. The company is tapping on this increased engagement to add new members at a breakneck pace, even as it hosted its very first globally coordinated Members Day to offer exclusive merchandise and rewards across its physical stores and digital platforms.

As a result, Nike digital has seen three straight quarters of more than 80% year-over-year growth. These different types of engagement platforms help to build up both brand awareness and loyalty among the population, resulting in more people signing up to be members. Once they do so, they will be drawn in to purchase more or connect more with the brand, thereby creating a virtuous cycle of increased loyalty to Nike.

Nike has shown itself to be a leader in harnessing the power of technology to connect with customers and drive sales, while its brand strength will allow it to grow and maintain its leadership for many years to come.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.