Acceptance & Aspiration

As the business environment moves from what was believed to be a short term inconvenience to implementing long-term strategic contingencies as we manage through change, what decisions are you making that determine the forward direction of your business?

Here are some insights to keep you focused on your business:


• Update your contingency plan – even if you’re implementing a contingency plan right now. For example, does your contingency plan address the holiday season if your business depends on it? I know it’s just the beginning of April, but what if? That’s what contingency plans are all about, the what if’s.

Being a CEO means always thinking ahead. Stay out of the weeds. Your job is to scout the landscape for threats and opportunities that weren’t evident before.

The Checkered Flag

• From the “lemons into lemonade” file: Two months ago, iRacing was a successful niche video racing platform. Today, Nascar is using the platform to run its weekend races virtually. Fox is televising with record viewership.

Nascar wins because it’s able to retain a connection with its fans. Fox wins because they’re televising something other than a race from 5 years ago that nobody cares about and iRacing wins because other sports are now seeing the opportunity of using its platform for their series. Kudos to Nascar and Fox Sports for taking a risk when circumstances looked bleak.


• Fear of the unknown abounds. Lots and lots of fear. But leaders are not supposed to show it, right? In this case, my counsel is to allow your fear and anxiety to come out, but in productive ways, by sharing.

Being vulnerable is not a characteristic most CEOs think about – even among highly collaborative, emotionally intelligent leaders. But today is different. Different circumstances. Different answers. Different labor force with different requirements from previous generations. Sharing vulnerabilities, being personal and demonstrating understanding do not come in conflict with intensity, drive and results.

Anything you can do for your team to get them to relax during uncomfortable times will help focus and discipline throughout the organization. No human is a rock all the time. We all have moments of self-doubt. Take a chance and show your team that you have concerns, challenges and anxieties just as they do. And keep pushing forward.

Remote Workplace Culture

• Being a great place to work is a profitability strategy, not just a humanitarian one. Great place to work companies do better on virtually every measurement scale. Your company can still be a great place to work even though employees are working remotely by focusing on the foundations of what creates great places to work.

For example, be inspiring to your employees, share tons of relevant information via mail, text, video etc. Create political-free avenues for employees to communicate whatever they need to communicate whenever they need to do so. Recognize achievements and create cultures of appreciation. If you are hiring, do the front end work to ensure you hire the best talent that fits your culture as well as functional requirements. Have a well-thought out new employee welcoming program once you bring these great people into your organization. Effectively communicate strategy and give updates on results.

Where the “A” Players Are

• The newly unemployed “A” players typically don’t advertise themselves. They turn to their network. Likewise, utilize your network to find the best of the best. We are seeing an employment market right now that hasn’t been available for at least 5 years. Take advantage of it!


• Modify your strategic plan, don’t trash it. Plans are made to be flexible. Your vision 90 days ago should still be your vision today. Bring your management team together to discuss strategic challenges and opportunities regularly. Remind everyone of the vision each time you meet. How does your company come out of this stronger? How do you define stronger?

Old Thinking / New Thinking

• Consider what could become permanent changes in the way you operate your business. Some employees will not want to come back to the office now that they’ve experienced the freedom of working from home. Still others can’t wait to get out of the house. Plan now to manage the culture shift and how work gets done. Camaraderie, trust, collaboration and lines of communication are all being affected and have profound effects on culture and decision making. There will be impacts on physical work environments when this is over.

Do you really need the office you currently have? Is there an opportunity to scale down and reduce long-term overhead through a smaller physical footprint?

Quick Learners

• Isn’t it amazing how many people didn’t know how to use Zoom or Skype before this? Now these programs are transforming how we work. What other methods of work are we not aware of? What other software and processes are available to us that we should experiment with?

My challenge to you is to test run and/or learn about one new software package or application every couple of weeks that can help transform the way you do things at work. Let me know what you come up with!

Family Business

• The best performing family businesses are ones that are managed like professional organizations. Roles and responsibilities of family members cannot be modified any more than any other employee, manager or executive. Doing so will destroy morale and create questions about leadership credibility. If family members are not living up to expectations, take the same action with them as you would with anyone else.

The United States is in the critical weeks of this pandemic. So is your business. Protect your cash, find cash, think beyond survival and about growth, consider strategic opportunities as buying habits and behaviors have changed. Pivot if you have to but consider the consequences to your core business. Take advantage of grants and loans if it is the right thing to do. Build bridges, don’t burn them.

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Brian Oken has helped dozens of business owners and CEOs become better leaders, build more effective teams and grow bottom-line profits.

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