On March 26, 2020 SRS CEO and past president of the Rotary Club of Thomasville W. Powell Jones spoke via video conference to the members of his club on how community and business leaders should respond to the current COVID-19 Crisis. Below is a synopsis of his comments.
The Business environment in 2020 requires the ability to adapt and change as an organization faster than at any time in my four-decade business career. Structural changes in an industry used to take a decade to develop. In the modern highly connected global economy, major changes in an industry have been happening, in some cases, on a 12-18-month cycle.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shocked the global and U.S. economy like no event that I have ever seen before. How do we as leaders in business and non-profits and churches in our community and region respond well to help our organizations and those around us to make a difference short and long term?
Our business, Secure Records Solutions began locally as a start-up in 2003. Last year, we celebrated our “sweet 16”…16 years in business. We help organizations of all types manage and enhance their use of business records. This includes organizing, storing physically, or digitizing and making the data more useful as business intelligence or to meet compliance requirements. We serve over 900 clients. We manage the entire life cycle of records safeguarding up to and including secure destruction. We have grown our client base to solve records issues for clients now across the lower 48 states. Our secure destruction business is more regional with service to organizations in approximately twenty-five counties in our region in Georgia and Florida.
How do we LEAD in this unprecedented crisis, helping keep our team members safe, serving our clients safely and as effectively as we can and keeping commerce going? Furthermore, how do we navigate so that our organization survives and hopefully thrives for the longer term?
Albert Einstein is credited with the phrase, “information is not knowledge.” Today, we are inundated with information 24/7. But information is not knowledge, and it is certainly not wisdom. We LEAD by taking the time to find out information by utilizing all the sources at our disposal to think ahead and sharing the things. The Rotary 4-way test question, “is it the truth?” is of utmost importance in this instance to ensure we are sharing facts with our staff and their families instead of spreading rumors or engaging in fearmongering. Examples of these solid, factual resources include Archbold Memorial Hospital, CDC, and Thomasville-Thomas County Chamber resources.
Industry peers in northern Italy have given us an 11-day advantage on what we might face in our day-to-day operation. They faced business closures in Italy on a large scale and had to adapt in how they served their clients.
This knowledge and insight is about as close to a crystal ball as we can get as to what may happen here. The biggest piece of advice was to get ahead of the coming crisis. We are only as safe in our work environment as the weakest link among our staff. We want our staff members and their families safe when at home so that they do not endanger our other staff or the business as a whole.
In addition to heightened health and sanitation guidelines and changes to protocols for certain clients, we have switched operations to remote where possible and are relying on technology such as Microsoft Teams and GroupMe for communication with staff. We are also helping our managers prepare to manage remotely for the first time by arming them with knowledge and resources to help their employees be successful at home.
Faith as Our Foundation:
Where are we with our Faith? Times like these are a shock to us. There is so much uncertainty. This crisis humbles us all. It proves what I already knew…I am NOT in charge. It is a reminder that in good times and in tough times we need to focus on our faith as our sure foundation. What is your personal cornerstone?
- There is wisdom in the book of Proverbs. There are 31 chapters…one for each day of the month…I found them to be a helpful devotional supplement. In particular, Proverbs 3:5-6 is a theme verse in our business. It was a comfort in our earliest lonely days as a start-up with no clients. It is a comfort in this crisis.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight.
- Psalms are a great comfort. There are 150 Psalms and so like those in ancient Israel, the Psalms can be a great source of strength.
- Enhance your prayer life during this time so that you have deeper prayer patterns in your daily walk. Set the example for your family. Pray for Friends and neighbors. Pray for those medical professionals on the front lines. Pray for Government leaders; local, Statewide, in Washington, and across the globe. Pray for Unity. Pray that this crisis will bring unity and overshadow partisanship. Pray for patriotism and the goodness at the core of ALL Americans.
In other disasters; hurricanes, tornadoes, floods we lost power or lost use of where we live. In this crisis; we have power, fresh water, most services to maintain our way of life. We have a great source of food with hard working merchants, and truckers and the best supply chain of the world.
For those of us locally; this event is happening at a beautiful time of year. It is Spring. Enjoy the natural beauty around us and take time to appreciate that this is slowing us down. For a good perspective on this, read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. It will help you gain perspective.
As a leader in business, we must also be cognizant of the fears of our staff and clients. How do we help encourage them while being realistic about the impact to our business and to their livelihood? FPC Thomasville pastor Tim Filston’s blog “Faith and Doubt” is a good resource I turn to as well in these instances.
Look for ways to improve personally, professionally and within the community:
The SRS tagline is “Always improving.” What better way to put that into practice than in trying times like these? We are always working to enhance Business Continuity in our business. This event gives us an opportunity to tune up our plan for future pandemics. We can use this time to put into place better operating protocols. The next one may be worse. We have always wanted to improve our ability to build out remote-backup capabilities at SRS for any disaster so that we remain a viable service provider. We shifted from zero to four staff working from home ten days ago. This week we equipped an additional four with that capability.
It’s also a good time to look to gain something personally from this crisis. Whether it’s adding yoga, doing an online class, learning programming, or spending more quality time at home with young children, there is something positive that can come from this crisis.
Prepare for Financial Realities:
We built up a backlog of work in our building two weeks ago in preparation for the possibility of a government change in our ability to have staff out serving clients. California, Washington, and New York have statewide lockdowns. We have geared up to be able to shift more work for our delivery staff inside our building to the degree that we can
We have challenged our Managers to come up with worthwhile projects that can be done from home that are helpful to the business. What are those projects that we never get around to? What would help the organization post-crisis?
Are there staff training or accreditations that our remote staff could accomplish while away from the office?
What is the realty of how our sales/income is changing? How about collections? Cash flow is key.
Review costs and begin to plan for changes. What is our financial runway?
In our case, we have taken the approach that we can best take care of our staff the longer that we can keep commerce going safely. We must be prepared to pivot quickly.
The State and Federal government has taken action with new workplace laws for sick pay, etc related to Covid-19 and has also made access to Small Business Administration loans available. Stay tuned as the details are fleshed out.
Above All, Service Above Self:
Share resources; share knowledge; share enthusiasm that we will get through this. Be a light to those around you.
We should all be living by the Rotary motto of “service above self.” How do we, as Rotarians, help fellow Rotarians, fellow business leaders, neighbors, church members, and strangers we encounter?
Remember that aa smile from 6’ does not cost a thing. Are you checking in on your elderly neighbor. Are you using your unique gifts to help others who may have a need? I believe we will see the best in Americans helping their fellow man throughout this. Stay Calm and Lead well. Make a difference in the lives of those around you!