We published our first blog on August 4, 2010 and have continuously posted two new blogs per month since then (we did miss one publication date during recovery from knee replacement surgery, but apart from that, our string has been uninterrupted). It appears Covid-19 is about to end that streak. As we look at online news sources, radio and television news, newspapers and magazines, all the news (and we do mean all of it) is about the virus. And rightly so. Unless you were around for the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, none of us has ever experienced anything like this. So as we approach our next publication date (March 1, 2020), it seems inappropriate to talk about the normal business issues we typically discuss here as though the Covid-19 virus wasn’t happening and life was going on as usual. On the other hand, writing about the virus seems like a fool’s errand . . . we have no insights, or knowledge, or wisdom that hasn’t already been thoroughly explored by every media outlet on the planet. Therefore, we will suspend publication of this blog until such time as the virus comes under control and it seems reasonable to once again discuss normal business issues. However, we would like to offer a few thoughts and observations.
To blog or not to blog. Blog suspended . . . for now.
- Don’t panic. Decisions made in a panic don’t usually work out all that well. So stay calm. Examine your options with a clear eye. We got through the Great Depression, two world wars, 9/11, and the Great Recession. We’ll find a way to get through this too.
- Stay in touch. Maybe you’ve had to lay off or furlough a portion of your workforce. Maybe you’ve had to lay off or furlough your entire workforce. Maybe you’ve asked all who can to work from home. Whatever the case, you’ve probably got people experiencing some level of separation anxiety. They need to feel connected, to feel like they know what’s going on. So provide that connection. You can do much of it via texts or emails, but at least some of it should be more personal. If your organization is too big to make personal phone calls practical, maybe you organize department-by-department conference calls. People need to hear from their leader in his or her own words, and they need to be able to ask questions and get answers. They need hope that eventually they will have a job to go back to.
- Take advantage of government programs. Both federal and state governments are doing what they can to provide safety nets for individuals. These come in the form of extended unemployment benefits, forgiveness of mortgage interest, suspension of evictions, and suspension of student loan payments, to name a few. Make sure your employees know what’s available to them. Also make sure you know what financial resources are available to your business, particularly through the Small Business Administration. Consult with your banker and with your accountant to understand what help is available to your business and your employees.
- Reach out. If you belong to an industry trade association, find out if they are organizing conferences or seminars to help members deal with this crisis. If you have friends or acquaintances who lead a business similar to yours, they are undoubtedly facing the same problems that you are. Exchange ideas on how best to address those common problems.
For now, you are in survival mode. Your job today is to do those things you need to do to open the door and turn on the lights tomorrow. At such point as the business demonstrates it is stable (that is, it is at least minimally profitable and has positive cash flow), you can start to think a bit longer term. But for now, your focus needs to be on the here and now . . . on survival.
When businesses are allowed to reopen, and when people are no longer confined to their homes, we will resume our regular twice monthly publishing schedule. Until then, stay calm, stay focused, and stay healthy.