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Andrew Penny, March 17 2020

14 Days from Now

14 days is how long people are being asked to self-isolate. It will, of course, take much longer to solve the Covid-19 pandemic but my challenge to you is "what are YOU, as a business leader, going to do about it?" 

As business leaders in times of turmoil we have an obligation to take decisive action. We must do this when historical data is useless in projecting the future.  The steady-state we are used to is over. So, what’s it going to be Boss? 

There are two things to think about

The first is how do you keep your team and company safe.  It doesn’t really matter what you say – but you do have to say something. Each of you will have your own approach based on what it is you do. But hiding under a rock is not an option. We, the human race, still need food, shelter and of course recreation, fun and excitement (otherwise why bother).  This, of course, includes all of us; producers, supply chains, and support systems that make it run (like consultants;). What are you going to tell your team (they are waiting) and what will you tell your clients?  (I’ve included my own decision is below). 

As business leaders in times of turmoil we have an obligation to take decisive action. We must do this when historical data is useless in projecting the future.  The steady-state we are used to is over. So, what’s it going to be Boss? 

This is the second time in recorded history that an event has changed the lives of all 7.6 billion of us virtually overnight. The first time was the moon landing – we all knew, we all celebrated. After the moon landing, people did not go to work the next day with the same ideas and beliefs, they were forever altered. The second time is the Covid-19 pandemic. 

I am writing this on Sunday Afternoon, March 16th, in Ottawa Canada. Borders are closed, my morning swim club is cancelled, my friends are struggling back from foreign holidays, my nonagenarian parents’ home is on lockdown and toilet paper is in short supply (what’s with that??) and the list goes on.  Once Covid-19 is back in the box, the behaviour needle will swing back from 11 towards the old ‘normal’ - but not completely. Covid-19 will forever change how we think about, to name four, social interaction, supply chains, remote work and information systems. 

Social Interaction.   How soon will you be freely shaking hands? When will you next invite a client to breakfast? Will you think twice before buying a plane ticket? Are mosh pits a thing of the past? How will the travel and restaurant sectors change? Will the cruise industry recover? What would take its place? 

Supply Chains.   We are seeing how nature (viruses) can dramatically disrupt (destroy?) supply chains. What should you be doing to mitigate disruption in the future? (And what should your suppliers be doing?) Do you need multi-country sources? Do you need larger inventories? Do you need to increase flexibility in your products and service? Can you help other companies figure this out? 

Remote Work.   We are currently undergoing a global experiment in remote working. Once this is over, an increase in remote working of 20% is far from unreasonable. Certainly, technology companies are already doing this and will sell lots of services to enable it. But what if you own commercial real estate – is this a problem? If you own or sell residential space – do you have bandwidth and good ‘working conditions’ for tenants? If you run a coffee service business – will you offer ‘home-office’ delivery? If your staff move home, how does that affect your management and leadership approach? How do you ensure they are all pulling the same way?  

Information Systems.   We have seen a tsunami of information over the last week, some of it scientifically based, some political and most of it edited for effect. We’ve been getting information designed to comfort, to scare and to enrage. Early data points were delivered without context, data was based on a specific country or region’s experience. This event has demonstrated that our information systems - and sources of truth - are broken. As leaders, we have to make decisions in spite of this.  So, what news sources to you go to? What do you read? How do you stay informed? And, despite the confusing noise coming at you, how do you make decisions. 

The Reset Button.   As a business leader, you have been given a big red reset button. The future is not yet written and after this settles down – it will NOT be business as usual. Just as the moon landing changed how we think about our place in the universe, Covid -19 will cause us to think differently about life as humans. 

So Boss, what are you going to do about it. Some moves may be defensive, and others may be about better ways to serve your employees and your clients. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Will you take decisive action or will you follow the herd? 

You have 14 days.    Go ....

 And remember,  Keep calm, wash your hands, and carry on.    

BTW At Kingsford, we have decided that we will work from home offices. We will not be attending any ‘networking’ or business social events and, wherever possible, client meetings will be held over a video link. None of us are afraid of the virus, but we do not want to contribute to the speed of contagion that could render health services unavailable for those that will need it. 

Our business development activities and client support activities will continue apace.  Deadlines and commitments will absolutely be met. We remain available to help any business leaders that want to address the current turmoil and those that want to plan how they will rebound fromthese interesting times. 

Written by

Andrew Penny


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