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Will coronavirus kill my business?

Considerations CEOs can make while leading during the pandemic


If you are a CEO or business owner and have not had this question run through your mind, you probably manufacture hospital beds.

When several people (including this publication) asked me to write a piece on what business leaders can do in this surreal situation, I initially balked as I’ve had as many questions as anyone else. I believe, however, that there are some top-level things to consider that I can highlight—and others can no doubt add to.

I coach CEOs and am no longer in that hot seat. I have however, had numerous conversations with clients and board members over the last week and respectfully offer the following considerations.

  • It has to be said; people’s lives come first. As I pointed out to several clients the other day, “your actions may actually dictate life or death for one of your employees or their family.” I’m not going to rehash suggestions that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or other medical experts are making, my point here is think of this first!
  • Cash has and always will be king. If I were in your shoes and was even slightly negatively impacted by this pandemic, I’d be very careful with it. Ironically, if everyone hoards cash it will deepen or cause a severe economic downturn but do your best to make sure you can make payroll and keep your insurance up to date. Do you have previously unidentified sources of cash you might consider? Can you improve your cash conversion cycle?
  • Relationships are as important as cash. Your key customers, your co-workers, your banker and your suppliers deserve extra attention right now. What are you doing to stay close to them?
  • It is hard to be empathetic when you have a gun at your head, but if you are a leader, you are responsible for people’s lives and need to be strong enough to hear their problems while solving your own. How much time are spending listening to others?
  • While you need to be strong, you also need to talk through your issues. It might be with a group of other executives. Perhaps you have a business minded spouse. You might have a coach. Just don’t hold it in. That’s dangerous. Who are you talking to?
  • You need a plan. Probably multiple plans to address multiple possible futures and timeframes. Make sure that you first make sure that you are asking all the right questions. You should maintain optimism about the medium to long-term future, but don’t put your head in the sand now! What are the questions that you need to ask right now about your business?
  • You don’t remodel your house when it is on fire so attend to the immediate needs, but also be thinking about the long-term considerations. Is this crisis going to have long term implications for your business model? Can you ensure that the tactical steps you are taking are aligned with your long-term strategy?
  • Your family needs you. How can you make sure that their needs are met to the best of your ability?

There will be many businesses that suffer or go away during this pandemic. Do your absolute best to make damn sure that yours isn’t one of them. Things will get better, but this is not the time for inaction.

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Todd Ordal

Todd Ordal is president of Applied Strategy®. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Todd is the author of Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be (Morgan James Publishing, 2016). Connect with Todd on LinkedIn, Twitter, call 303-527-0417 or email todd@toddordal.com.

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