Q&A on Sustaining and Building Business in Crisis Times
During my livestream I couldn’t even get to all the questions. Here are some of those and my responses. To watch the recording, go here: https://livestream.com/accounts/21314230/events/9036953
- What is your best/worst case estimate for getting back to more normal times? I have no better idea than anyone else, but my guess, based on ignoring both extremes, would be two months to be closer to normal and four months at the outside. But “normal” will have a different aspect to it, as I’m sure you can imagine. The key to a prolonged time is probably the actual (not projected) curve of infection, and to a briefer time the dire economic need to get people back to work and earning money.
- Do I seem greedy offering my services to prospects in this environment? Not if your first question is “How can I help you?” and you’re trying to offer legitimate value in this environment. People who are using terms such as “business first responders” or something like that I find detestable.
- What if my business is reliant on my showing up and interacting with people? Change it! Everyone is adapting. You can configure a car on your computer and order it remotely from the dealer these days. The livestream you watched will probably be seen by more than 3,000 people globally without using much promotion. Unlike past, analogous situations, we now have very effective technology to use.
- I’m primarily a speaker, what if remote devices simply don’t seem to please the client (or me)? Change your expectations, we’re talking about success, not perfection. Find a client who does find it effective and make it as effective as you can. Stop worrying about smile sheets and standing ovations.
- What will happen to my credit rating and reputation if I have to hold off paying people? I can’t tell you, but I suspect there will be great leniency shown. Banks are suspending mortgage payments, RMDS (required minimum withdrawals) will probably be suspended to preserve retirement fund value, and so forth. Do try to pay local vendors who need your support and whose support you will need.
- People owe me money, should I try to collect it? That depends. For minor amounts, no. For larger amounts, especially from larger companies, by all means. You have a responsibility to support your family and pay your own bills, and so do others. I think a silicon valley giant, Oracle or Cisco, had a constant policy of paying bills in 120 days, which greatly harms small businesses, and I’ve always found that unethical and reprehensible even in good times.
- What if I come down with the virus myself, or someone in my family does? Follow the protocols. Call your physician and discuss with him or her what to do next. If you test positive, it’s the same advice. If you’re isolated at home you can certainly continue to try to business remotely if you’re not seriously incapacitated.
- Should the money I keep (cash) at home be in small or large bills? Both, but small bills are much more flexible in terms of being able to buy a take-out meal, or gas, or tip someone. You want to be careful about how much you load on your credit cards.
- You’re big on community and I don’t have one. Can I start one among my clients in these times? Absolutely, it’s actually a good time to do so because people need support, they need to know they’re hearing the best practices of others, they need to vent, and they need some “cohesion.” Start on a small basis with Zoom or teleconferences.
- Will this be as bad as the Great Depression? Absolutely not. The banks failed, the market collapsed, and people jumped out of windows because they were ruined. Support systems such as have today didn’t exist. It’s probably 50/50 that there will be a recession, and that, too, will pass.
- Is this likely to happen again? Yes, of course. We’re not as smart as we think we are and something new will arise (or fall from the stars) but, one would hope, we’ll be better prepared.
- Why were we in the US so unprepared? Do you remember ever not having batteries you suddenly urgently needed? We tend to be complacent, knowing that we live in a land of “plenty” and can always find what we need tomorrow. We take excellent medical treatment (and police protection, and firefighting, and mass transportation, etc.) for granted. Until something unanticipated comes along, and we have to change our beliefs and expectations.
- Will this impact the US presidential election? Every social issues impacts the election, but it will be held as scheduled, probably with more remote voting provisions, depending on medical and social conditions at the time. I think at the moment turning this horrible disaster into political invective is despicable.
- Will airlines and hospitality recover? Yes, this economy is structurally solid and the strongest in the world. But weaker competitors will go out of business. The weakest restaurants in the highly competitive marketplace here are shutting down and closing for good. The stronger ones are providing take-out food. Once there is a relatively “all clear” signal, I think people are going to charge back to life as normal as they can make it in terms of recreation, travel, and entertainment.
- What’s the language for asking clients to reschedule events involving me? “When we’re able, we want to hit the ground running. Let’s plan for that. The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t another train, it’s the sun. But a lot of people, after sticking their heads in the sand, will be blinded by the light. What we need to do is keep out heads up and be confident in what light we have.”
© Alan Weiss 2020