by Mason Rutledge, President of C3 Leaders
Grab a newspaper out of the recycle bin and simply read the headlines. You’ll be stunned of the changes in the world since the last time Waste Management rolled through the neighborhood.
I’ve been rolling through Zoom meetings and phone calls this week with business leaders talking about those changes. What are they seeing in their business? What’s happened to their bottom line? How do they feel? Where are things going? Why?
Towards the end of the week, I started to get the question, “Mason, what are you hearing?” I know it’s not that I have any special revelation or knowledge, it’s simply the fact that I’m a collection bin. I’m not collecting yesterday’s news, but actual word on the street testimony of what is happening in the Puget Sound marketplace. It is the collection of meeting with near 100 business leaders this week through C3 Leaders.
Our C3 Forums are safe places (“what said there, stays there”), so I’m not speaking specifically to any individual person or situation. If I’m referencing something specific, I have sought permission. These are general themes and conclusions that I thought would be helpful for the larger community.
Generally, people see there being three scenarios for Covid 19. Andy Crouch, executive editor of Christianity Today, calls these three scenarios, Snowstorm, Winter and Ice Age
- “Snowstorm” – A significant positive move will create a quick turnaround.
- “Winter” – We will flatten the curve over time.
- “Ice Age” – Long-term problem over an 18-month window. Recession.
Most people know this is more than a “snowstorm” and believe it has set in as “winter.” At the same, there are a few outspoken people who don’t believe this is even a “snowstorm.” There are only a few people voicing this opinion, but I believe it is fairly widespread. It’s not shared because people don’t want to appear insensitive to those that are sick or fighting for their lives.
This view would say that the impact on the economy should be weighed in decisions around quarantine and closing of businesses. My sense is that people aren’t sure that the lasting economic impact is being considered in these decisions, that public health has the trump card. Again, people genuinely care for others, the sense is that the discussion just needs balance.
Businesses are balancing their payment priorities. Service providers like accountants and attorneys are having their invoices ignored. Individual businesses are delaying payment. I don’t think this is fear, as much as planning for the worse (I think there is a difference). The dollars allocated to last month’s accounting work may need to be used next month or the month following for paying the rent or employees.
Employees are being let go. Immediate layoffs have been accelerated by the movement by the Department of Labor to change unemployment laws. Rather than keeping employees, it is almost to the employee’s advantage to let them go and get them into the new expediated system. Why have them sit at home? Lay them off and let them get help.
In the coming weeks the U.S. economy will be shocked by unbelievable unemployment numbers. We don’t need another shock. Can I be one person to assure you, it’s not as bad as it will look. These are strategic moves. The hope for is that these workers will stay on the “sidelines,” not finding other jobs and when the economy returns, they can jump back in. We will need them ready and available. This is very important to keep the economy from having a lagging return.
The sad truth is that there will be good businesses closing. I have a number of friends, that I have talked to this week, that are fighting to keep their business alive. They are having to be creative. They are looking for funding opportunities. While happy with the U.S. government bailout, it raises just as much concern as hope.
It’s bad for businesses today. It will be worse for colleges/university, churches and non-profits tomorrow. It is readily agreed that we are nowhere near bottom for these organizations. Many will close. Organizations that have relied upon events for funding will be the first to fail. If organizations do not have an endowment or have not built up reserve funds will be severely impacted.
“Pivot” will be the business word for 2020. Employees, business, non-profits are all going to have to adjust. Many of them will have to pivot, change direction. This week I have heard of businesses like Snohomish County-based Kaas Tailored who have pivoted, going from making upholstery to hospital gear. Individuals have pivoted, from being living “my truth” and “my best life” to a community-welcoming approach…even if it is from six-feet away. We’ve pivoted the Earth which is more healthy today. Teams and groups, which have always been together, are event stronger. They are meeting more often, going deeper, asking more and loving each other.
I ended my week with a Zoom happy hour among a handful C3 members. It was a wonderful time on a rainy spring evening. We had two questions for discussion:
- What has changed in your house/life/work the last ten days?
- Of those changes, which do you hope to retain post-Covid?
There was certainly discussion on issues like the supply chain and risk resilience. Most of our time focused on the fact that true partnership has not only continued but strengthened in this season. We have realized how much more we need each other. One member said, “I’ve had more cocktail parties this week then I’ve had in my life.” Collaboration has heightened value. Earlier this week in a C3 Forum over Zoom, someone said,
“Solidarity is not an action. It is an active virtue.”
We are more solid today then ten days ago.
This corporate expression of strength isn’t just in our professional life, but in our spiritual life. Corporate prayer has only strengthened. In C3 Leaders, I heard of three different groups this week that have taken on new prayer commitments…
- One is meeting every Monday night with assigned prayer topics
- Another is meeting every Friday morning for dedicated prayer and
- The third has their phones set for 9:30 a.m. when they physically turn and pray in the direction of one of their C3 Forum mates.
In the happy hour last night, C3 member Steve Enos said,
“Not only are we praying, but we are using scripture to weaponize our prayer.”
That is beautiful. It gives me chills to write. Makes me wonder what the headlines are going to say two weeks from now.
I look forward to more discussions this coming week…