Decisions Formed Decades Ago Altered This Week


“Don’t take help.”
“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”
“We don’t need the government’s help.”
“Private business is key.”
“Don’t be one of those people.”

Childhood memories of overheard statements from Dad, decades ago, echoed through the ethical decisions made by business leaders this week.

“Get up!”

Decisions had to be made, of which, a month ago we would have never dreamed. The decision beachheads for business leaders included….

“Do we apply for the Payroll Protection Program (PPP)?”
“There is a limited pool, so should we apply for the PPP?”
“How much can we ask for?” “How much should we ask?”
“What about the EDIT or state programs?”
“Is it even okay to be looking to the government for help?”
Government programs, paperwork, participation and past payroll were the primary focus of business leaders. One noted, “It is usually said, you do not want to have to talk to your banker in a downturn. That is not true this time.” If they didn’t know their banker before, business leaders know her now.

“If the grant comes through, it will be much easier (to rebound),” said a friend. Waiting for a government program or grant is not the normal practice of a business leader. They are initiators, not responders. This crisis came on so unexpectedly, they find themselves responding. “Adapt and Overcome.”

These pivots have become exhausting. Dr. Rob McKenna of WiLDLeaders, said in a Zoom call this week, “Pivots are a minor disruption. The problem today is the number of pivots.” New challenges arise and we must respond. The normal way of operating is gone. My friend Larron Patton reminded me, “Hey, normal is just a setting on a washing machine.” We will not head back to normal.

So, if we will not return to normal, where are we going? This leads to the question, asked by a friend, “Coming out of this, what would give us a strategic advantage?” In a downturn, businesses usually cut innovation immediately. He said, this is exactly where we should invest today.

Innovation could be a simple as inventory because inventories are still fragile. For example, there is an on-going effort to find cleaning supplies and items like face masks. I’ve seen a couple situations where C3 Forums were used for the transfer of disinfectant wipes and N95 masks between businesses.

The good news is that some businesses currently have enough work. Unfortunately, they don’t see new jobs coming in the door. There is a sense that the true “train wreck” is still ahead. In C3 Forums, members will grade how they feel about their work generally on a scale of 1 to 10. A single C3 member, in a single week will swing their grade from “9” to “2.” The higher ranking is for the work today. The lower ranking is for what they see in the future.

There are many others that have had a dramatic change in their revenue immediately. A month ago, their business was at an all-time high, houses were selling, they were dreaming about what was next, etc. This week, I’m hearing, “worst insurance market in 40 years,” “no one is looking at houses,” “80% drop in revenue,” “orders are down 50%” “five to seven years before airlines will return to 2019 levels” and on and on.

What is next? This was a helpful illustration of how Merrill Lynch analysts see the future…

Health recovery will be U-shaped.
Economic recovery will be V-shaped, and
Market recovery will be square root shaped (√). It will bounce and flatten.
They didn’t have a letter or symbol for how our family life will rebound from this crisis.

A new theme in my discussions was the impact on home life. Zoom family dinners have been a hit. One couple even made a family favorite and drove it around to their adult kids, leaving it on their front porch. They gathered that night, enjoyed the meal and each other’s company through Zoom.

The challenge of a quarantine home life. It seems to be starting to wear on that spouse who is the more helpful, caring, providing. They are decidedly not going to Costco but rather choosing a neighborhood grocery store. They are visiting that store first thing in the morning to avoid crowds. They are putting pressure on their “riskier” spouse. They are requiring masks and gloves of their family…if they let them leave at all.

This blog post started with Dad ringing in our memory. Now in our home, the voice of our spouse is ringing in our ears.

Amid these challenges, I’m reminded of the blessing that I had to have an entrepreneurial, self-made Dad. He taught me lessons for these times. In addition, I remember that there are many people that are alone and I’m thankful for a spouse that balances my gifts to “push” with that of “protect.”

They will both help us make the best decisions today and a solid plan for the future.