Letter From a Founder #6: Running a Company During a Pandemic
First, let me say that I am incredibly fortunate. Up until this writing, I don't have any close friends or family members that have become seriously ill because of COVID-19. That's lucky in itself. The fact that we have "only" seen a downturn in our business is a massive privilege compared to the numerous families who have lost a loved one or the millions of people that have lost their jobs or the many businesses that have gone out of business or are very close to it.
In terms of the overall GFB business, our grocery & natural foods retail partners are fairly strong, but about 25% of our business is in foodservice, coffee shops and specialty retail stores...and almost all of those are closed. If you've been reading our "Letters from a Founder" series, you'll know that we run our own manufacturing facility. This is something we are very proud of...it has always created special opportunities & challenges for us, and this time is no different.
What is the playbook for running a business in times like this? There isn't one. So we went back to why we exist and what matters most to the people around us.
Below are three things that have we have found to be true about managing a business during a time of crisis.
We decided what was most important to us and used that as a guide for making every major decision.
For us, the most important things are, in this order:
#1 Make our facility as safe as possible for all team members.
#2 Do everything possible to keep everyone on our team fully employed.
Every decision we have made from that point on supports those objectives. For example, face masks are hard to get and expensive, but the decision to bring them in is easy because safety is the top priority. The same thing applies with our decision to do everything possible to keep our team fully employed. Since our business is down overall, we need to find places to cut expenses or simply not do some things we had planned. Keeping people in their jobs is our goal so it makes these decisions easier.
Striving to be proactive but getting comfortable being reactive.
You know those days where nothing goes as you planned, you got nothing on your to-do list done, and you feel frustration or a lack of progress? That is a consistent theme when trying to run a business during COVID-19. Things change so fast, that you constantly find yourself in reactionary mode. You have to do your best to get out in front of things, but you can't beat yourself up for dealing with the latest urgent issue that popped up.
We've come to accept that whatever thing we end up doing that day, is what needed to be done. Maybe that was the last minute safety meeting at work, spending time talking to your friend who is really struggling while stuck at home, or going shopping for someone who can't. Whatever that urgent issue happened to be, it got done, and let's take that as progress.
Ironically, we've found that we are connecting with others better than ever.
At The GFB, we've had the opportunity to create stronger bonds by going through all this together with open minds and shared goals. Externally, we've been able to connect with potential sales & marketing partners since we're all stuck at home. Everyone on the team has done an amazing job focusing on our larger goals and how to approach the immediate task on hand to support those goals. We may come out of this a little bruised and battered, but we will come out of this, and we definitely will be stronger as a result.
As Churchill said: "Never waste a good crisis". I hope to look back at this time more for what we made of it instead of what we lost. All I really know is that we're doing our best, and doing our best is all we can control right now.