No Advice From Me (aka I Don’t Know What To Do)
So I’m getting on the phone.
Among the things you don’t learn in business school about being a first-time CEO, “How to lead your company through a global pandemic” is right near the top of the list.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not asking for sympathy, nor am I crying for myself. I’m aware of the real devastation and loss that’s taking place–that, so far, I’ve been spared from witnessing firsthand as I write this sitting in the farmhouse my Great-Great-Grandfather lived in an hour’s drive from our empty office in downtown St. Louis.
Honestly, I was a late-comer to the realization of how bad the spread of COVID-19 could be since I generally avoid the cable news cycle. Once large, profit-seeking organizations began canceling things I took notice, did some research, and spoke with a few people who were in the know. We quickly went to a remote work environment–our small team is fairly spread out across the Greater St. Louis area and it felt like the right thing to do, civically.
We’re doing all the things you’d expect, of course–adjusting plans accordingly, running scenario analyses, and fulfilling orders for our amazing customers like normal. We’ve even been able to help some companies reach out and connect with their newly-remote team members.
But…really…let’s be honest, here. What do I do next week?
I’ve never wished more that I were trained in a medical discipline and could be useful in my community if needed. But I also have a responsibility–to our customers, to our team, to our vendors, to our investors, and, most importantly, to my family. This company brings home the proverbial bacon.
We’ll work all weekend to update plans, reassess every assumption we made for 2020, and stress test our models.
But…when that’s finished Sunday night. What do I do next week?
I can think of only one thing: get on the phone.
I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to do or not. I’m not sure if anyone wants to speak to me, but I have a hunch that people may just want to talk.
When Bear Stearns went under in 2008, I was on the Equity Research desk, and I recall that our phones just stopped ringing. It was weird. We were still functionally in business, but it was like we didn’t exist. When we reached out, we often heard some version of “I wasn’t sure if I should call…” and we always thought “YES!! CALL US, WE WANT TO TALK!” Totally different situations, of course, but I’m taking a leap and thinking there may be something to learn from that experience.
So…we are clearing our calendar of all regularly scheduled meetings, and we’re just going to reach out to our people to see if they want to talk. About anything.
If you’re still reading this, I’m guessing you may just want to talk, too. Click here and let me know what about. I can honestly say, it’s one of few things I’m looking forward to next week.