So Why Am I Wearing a Clip-On Tie?
A Message From TazWorks CEO – Barton Taylor
We’re all experiencing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic together. It’s a very difficult time and it is testing our grit as a nation and world. We can overcome the challenges best if we work together collectively and help each other through the process. The best advice I’ve been given was offered by a customer who shared a Business Continuity – Crisis Checklist about how to not only survive but to thrive during these interesting and challenging times. I’d like to share some of his ideas with you and have added a few thoughts of my own as well.
Let me start by telling you why I am wearing a clip-on tie. One of our first sales reps at TazWorks was Richard Hodgeson. He wore a clip-on tie as a demonstration of his energy, enthusiasm and dedication to his job and the company. In those days we were scrappy and determined to succeed, even with all the challenges of building a new company and industry. As the pressure and impact of this pandemic started to grow, I thought about what I could do to set an example and create the same kind of scrappy energy and optimism for my family, our employees, and our customers. I decided to put on a TazWorks clip-on tie like Richard to show to everyone that I am working with the same kind of passion and enthusiasm that got us where we are today. It’s my way of saying “we are all in,” we are determined to succeed, and we look forward to the day when we can claim victory.
I’d love to see the creative ways you have adapted to these new circumstances. Please send me any pictures, memes, or videos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Critical Tasks at Hand
I’d like to share some thoughts and planning strategies about how to combat some of the creeping negativity and despair that you will likely experience in the coming days and weeks:
- Be realistic & optimistic too (The Stockdale Paradox). In Jim Collin’s best seller “Good to Great” he challenges business owners to face the brutal realities, but to do it with optimism combined with realism. He illustrates the principle by telling a story about Admiral Jim Stockdale, a US military officer who was held captive for eight years in Vietnam. Admiral Stockdale was tortured more than twenty times and faced incredibly difficult circumstances along the way. Many prisoners did not return home, but Stockdale did. He later wrote “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.” Instead of putting his head in the sand and hoping that the problems would just go away, Stockdale faced the reality of his situation with optimism, hope and an unwavering commitment to the idea that he would survive and prevail. And, of course, he did. Jim Collins calls his willingness to face the brutal facts, combined with his undying commitment to optimism, the Stockdale Paradox.
- Engage your business continuity plan. A comprehensive business continuity plan is an important thing to have already developed for an unforeseen crisis like this one. If you do not have one, there is no better time than the present, even though it is more difficult to create when you are reacting to the situation rather than having one already in place. Either way, do your best to plan for all contingencies and how you will react as the situation progresses. Even if you have a business continuity plan, a COVID crisis checklist may also be helpful (see below).
- Cover your bases by creating a COVID crisis checklist. Create a comprehensive crisis management checklist to make sure that you have all your bases covered. Below are the categories of “COVID crisis checklist” that some of our partners are using to ensure our company’s operations team has managed things comprehensively. Your crisis checklist might include the following categories and subcategories:
- People – Health and safety, work policies, communications & meeting management, functional continuity, tracking exposures, counselling, succession planning, etc.
- Finances – Best/worst case/most likely scenarios, finance stress test, cash flow model with covenant analysis, Cash Czar, communication with lenders, vendors & suppliers, etc.
- Supply Chain – Vendor/material continuity, geographic considerations, alternate sourcing, demand planning, etc.
- Customers – Demand implications up/down/normal, service assurance, continuity of delivery, communications, redundancy, scenario planning, remote access, project reviews, decide what is critical and must continue regardless,
- Internal Communications – Ensure culture and company principles are demonstrated, personal nature of how it is impacting you, encouraging people to speak up, company support, board: frequency/topics/methods, travel restrictions, remote work/leave policy, internal channels, etc.
- External Communications – Media, local communities, suppliers, customers, analysts, lenders, regulatory/government
- Program Crisis Management – War Room, who, how often, structure, roles, virus progressions, PR crisis management, competitive monitoring, social media monitoring, communication strategy, value/asset protection, critical metrics and KPI’s, etc.
- Other – Opportunistic mergers and acquisitions (M&A), recruiting, point of contact for each critical area.
- Learn how to adapt quickly by flying the OODA Loop. Colonel John Boyd was another military mind that developed a four-step approach to decision making that focuses on being able to filter through a lot of information and adapt quickly, in a dynamically changing environment. It’s called the OODA (oodah) Loop, and it stands for Observe – Orient – Decide – and Act. Boyd taught fighter pilots how to constantly observe and assess their environments, then to orient themselves to what they observed. He then taught them to decide on a course of action, and to act on it with resolve. The “loop” refers to repeating the process constantly. We are in a dynamically changing environment, so flying the OODA Loop continually is a great way to allow yourself to adapt quickly and take advantage of the opportunities as they arise without getting stuck in the mire or rut of repetitive mistakes.
- Prepare to capitalize on opportunities. The most successful CEO’s are great capital allocators and turbulent markets can also create attractive buying / investing opportunities. Many companies are gearing up to take advantage of increased supply on talent, office space / fixed assets, and attractive M&A targets. Look for the opportunities that will surely appear as a result of this pandemic, both during and after it subsides.
- Measure your progress with good data. You can’t make adjustments if you don’t understand your data. Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, once said that “if you want something to improve, measure it.” Having deeper insights into how your business is performing is more critical now than ever. We’ve invested heavily into business intelligence tools to help us understand our data in real time. If you do not have good data analysis tools, make sure you invest in them and learn how to use them. If you need help with this, reach out to us.
- Remember cash is king. Liquidity / balance sheet becomes extremely important to weather the storm. Many companies are fully drawing down on revolving lines of credit in anticipation of lenders potentially closing the door (there is precedent for this happening in the last downturn where lenders refused to lend out cash to struggling companies even though the facilities legally allowed for cash draw). Either way, make sure you are paying close attention to the availability of cash and your cash flow.
- Get creative. Challenging times require creative solutions. We evolve and change as a company. Use creativity to think outside of the box and find new ways to solve problems that are available because of the situation we are in.
- Don’t give energy to the chaos. Keep your team focused on their customary roles and help them catch the vision of how to survive and thrive, rather than getting caught up in the gloom and doom. Choose a few crisis priorities to focus on while regaining control of the situation. Set smaller goals with frequent checkpoints so that they have a sense of positive direction. Leverage the OODA Loop as you do this.
Together we can not only survive – we can thrive! We are all in this together and we want to be the kind of partner you can rely on to be there with you as we all climb out of this mess. We are grateful to you and value your opinion. Please do not hesitate to reach out to let us know how we can do better. While we are sure to make mistakes along the way, we are grateful to be in a good position going into this crisis and we can all rebuild together.