New Articles

How Aristotle Can Help You Lead Your Business Through Tough Times

Aristotle

How Aristotle Can Help You Lead Your Business Through Tough Times

Business leaders face plenty of questions as they try to get a handle on the new economic reality brought about by the COVID-19 shutdown and the resulting recession.

But the answers to those questions may not appear in their corporate handbooks. Instead, they could lie in ancient philosophies with lessons that apply just as much today as they did centuries ago, says Cristina DiGiacomo (www.cristinadigiacomo.com), author of Wise Up! At Work and founder of MorAlchemy, a philosophical consulting firm that helps CEOs and executives tackle their biggest challenges by teaching them how to think differently so they see new solutions and their companies thrive.

“We could all use a little wisdom these days because COVID-19 has caused a shift in the way people think, the way people work, the way they live and how they think of themselves,” DiGiacomo says. “Technology may change, culture may change, but acting wisely is no different in the 21st century than the 5th century.”

Too often, when people hear words like philosophy and wisdom, they conjure images of a bearded man on a mountain, with enlightenment seekers trekking to see him, DiGiacomo says.

“In reality, the philosophers whose teachings changed the world were the kind of people who rolled up their sleeves, got to work, dug deep, and spoke up despite hardship, resistance and even threat of death,” she says. “Their views aren’t some abstract idea but have practical applications in today’s world.”

So, if Aristotle, Socrates, Voltaire and Immanuel Kant opened a corporate consulting business, here are a few things they would tell you about moving your business forward as the world tries to recover from COVID-19:

Don’t be rushed into rash decisions. Voltaire said “doubt is an unpleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” Sometimes CEOs feel the need to make quick decisions, perhaps to avoid seeming indecisive. That’s not always the best approach, DiGiacomo says. “Are you making critical decisions, with long-term consequences, on the fly without actually having developed your ability to deliberate?” she asks. “Our reactionary mind wants us to set it and forget it, so it can move onto the next thing.” Resist that temptation.

Avoid letting your “darkest moments” color reality. Immanuel Kant, among others, believed your mind shapes and structures your experience. “Your mind influences to a very large degree how you see the world and how you feel about it,” DiGiacomo says. “Those things you say to yourself, in those darkest moments, are shaping your reality. But it’s entirely possible that those thoughts you have about what you think reality is might not always be true.” She says it helps to “hit the pause button” and make sure the situation is what you think it is.

Say “I don’t know” even if you think you know. The country faces uncertain times over the next several months, but that’s not unusual, DiGiacomo says. The future is always uncertain – coronavirus or no coronavirus. One of her favorite quotes from Socrates is: “I know that I know not, and that makes me a wise man.” DiGiacomo says being in “I don’t know” mode releases your mind to discover new solutions and ideas. “If you constantly believe you know everything,” she says, “then there’s no impetus for your mind to be creative or continue to look for new information.”

And finally, DiGiacomo says, Aristotle offers encouragement for business leaders who are afraid they aren’t up to the task of making wise decisions. “Aristotle’s foundational idea of being human is that we are all wise, inherently,” she says. “It’s just a matter of tapping into that innate wisdom and building the skills that will help you to not only be wise, but to act wisely.”

______________________________________________________________

Cristina DiGiacomo (www.cristinadigiacomo.com), author of Wise Up! At Work, is the founder of MorAlchemy, a philosophical consulting firm. She also is the inventor of industrial philosophy and is the driving force behind the idea of applying philosophy in the workplace for the benefit of the leadership of organizations. DiGiacomo has 20 years of corporate executive experience at companies such as The New York Times, Citigroup, AMC Networks, and R/GA. She holds a master’s degree in Organizational Change Management from The New School. She also dedicated nine years to the study and practice of philosophy.

company

How Will Your Company Emerge from COVID?

We all learned growing up (hopefully) that our deeds define who we are. Times of crises especially reveal what kind of character people, and companies, have. The coronavirus pandemic is no exception. It’s forcing companies to evolve rapidly regardless of size, industry, or location. As we fear job loss and lament the dislocation from our work, we have to stay focused on improving our workplace cultures, processes, and environments, all of which define our organizations.

The Coronavirus Pause

Over time, leadership that’s bogged down by deadlines and daily quotas can forget the evergreen management principles needed to drive long-term success. The coronavirus offers companies a chance to reset their workflow, reexamine their offerings, let go of dead-end initiatives, and embrace emerging opportunities. The pandemic gives each of us an opportunity to remake ourselves—to disrupt the disruption.

Evaluate Yourself and Your Ideal

First, you must find ways to take stock of your brand impact. If you don’t appear to others as you intend, odds are you’re not the company you want to be. Evaluate who you are and why, then decide who you want to be and assess the action needed to get there.

-Find out who you are in the marketplace. Solicit opinions on your organization and its impact from trusted colleagues, friends, prospects, clients, and even honest competitors.

-Go through your workflow, your processes, your team, your client list, your vendors, your strategic partners—everything that you are currently doing that defines your company. Share and review it with members of all departments. Look at your current mission, revisit your original purpose, and find the direction to match that goal. Define what you need to change.

Next, assess, reassess, and harness all of your information and resources. This may help you find new business lines, action items, or process improvements.

-Amass all your institutional knowledge. Bring your leadership and staff together to codify everything you do. Capturing all the tacit and implicit knowledge of your people will reveal new paths to take and lessen the chance of missed opportunities.

-Have your leadership team focus on the near misses of the past and build a “recent lessons learned” catalog to facilitate self-examination. This will also show you how and where you need to mentor your team, build new working relationships, and improve collaboration.

Third, examine your leadership team through a new lens and rebuild—leaving your dysfunction behind.

I have heard countless times from colleagues (and experienced myself) how destructive it can be to be wholly removed from decision-making, and to have one’s hands tied when trying new things, or even just seeking counsel from outside your department due to trivial power dynamics.

-Share ideas and solicit them. Let people from all levels of your organization contribute freely and synergistically. You will be amazed at how much more engaged all your people are when they know they can contribute in a meaningful way.

-Treat your people well. Mental and emotional health are the wellspring of longevity, loyalty, and creativity. You simply get much better performance out of happy people.

-Break the taboos. Have people from different teams explain their roles to each other. Encourage them to talk to each other about the different functions in your business.

Becoming Who You Want To Be

An example of such a reboot is a small rideshare startup for kids and families. The company—RideAlong—was started by parents in New Jersey who were initially just seeking a safe way to get their kids to and from school.

RideAlong’s CEO Norbert Sygdziak was stunned by how much pent-up demand he discovered: “We started in September 2019 and had double-digit growth and double-digit profits. What started out as a local community need quickly snowballed into real demand across the country. It was incredibly fulfilling. But then came COVID.”

Schools shut down. The business went away entirely. RideAlong’s leadership was at a loss like everyone else. But then it clicked. Sygdziak and members of his Board and leadership team all galvanized around one question: “There are so many people in tougher situations. What can we do to help those people in this time?”

Sygdziak started by taking care of his people and asking his team to pull together. He made sure to take care of his drivers first as they were completely out of work. He paid them to keep the team intact and demonstrate his appreciation of what they were going through. The executives waived and postponed taking paychecks. He gathered volunteer teams of drivers and staff to partner with hospitals, food pantries, restaurants and non-profits to deliver food and supplies to seniors and families in need, provide meals to overtaxed healthcare workers, help children get to hospitals for much-needed regular medical treatments, and coordinate school deliveries for students.

It is not an uncommon pivot at this time, but it is a great example of the power of reexamination. These non-profit relationships and good deeds are leading to for-pay partnerships in ways they never dreamed. Pulling together the entire team, asking “why do we exist?” and “what should we do?” allowed them to reimagine everything.

Importantly, it crystallized what Sygdziak and his team wanted the company to be. They were not just a kids’ transportation company, but rather a mechanism for building community. Sygdziak is moved when he thinks about it: “We were forced to think more deeply about our purpose. By spending our resources on helping those less fortunate, by providing connection, and hopefully alleviating some difficulty, we found inspiration and grew tighter as a team. Now we understand exactly who we want to be.”

Who Will You Become?

Whatever you do with this time, if you have it, embrace it.

Despite the damage done, the coronavirus has inspired companies to pivot to philanthropy. Maybe you have the opportunity to prepare for change and pursue what the ferocious day-to-day never quite allowed. Reach out and expand relationships and geographies. Refine and redirect your team. Fully explore the ideas and solve the problems that always seemed too big to take on.

Rewrite your story and be better.

________________________________________________________________

Jennifer S. Bankston is the President of Bankston Marketing Solutions and has over twenty years of experience spearheading strategic initiatives for law firms and other industries including technology, financial services, life sciences, and healthcare. Jennifer is also rooted in technology, having developed various applications and products within the organizations she has worked. She can be reached at bankstonmarketingsolutions.com

sustainable

How To Make Your Business More Financially Sustainable after COVID-19

The coronavirus outbreak in December 2019 came at a time when the global economy was trying to get its act together after being slowed down for a while by trade tensions, especially between China and the US. The much-needed transition towards sustainable manufacturing and clean energy has also played a part in slowing down the global economy, but for a good reason.

When the virus checked into town, all the gains we have experienced over the last decade were turned upside down. Businesses now have to address the health, social, and economic impacts of the coronavirus on top of the already existing geopolitical (e.g. Brexit) issues that impact the business.

Supply chains all over the world have been disrupted by the pandemic, millions of working citizens infected, hundreds of thousands dead, and billions of potential customers rendered jobless. To compound these miseries, most markets are under lockdown, and no one knows for sure when life will get back to normal. The big question now remains: How will business people make their businesses more financially sustainable after COVID-19? Here are 5 measures you can take as a business leader to counter the financial impact of the coronavirus:

1. Leverage employment organizations when expanding internationally

If your intentions were to expand to international markets, or if you had already opened shop overseas, you can collaborate with professional employment organizations to source for and compensate employees. You can, for example, count on a Japan employer of record to help you to establish presence and support personnel in Japan cost-effectively and efficiently. They will help you hire new talents, manage existing staff, and navigate the legal requirements and obligations that come with business ownership in Japan. When you don’t have to worry about managing employee payrolls and compliance issues, or to hire an HR department for that matter, you are able to save on overhead costs until your business recovers fully from the coronavirus shock.

2. Re-evaluate your supply chains

The coronavirus has grossly exposed the vulnerabilities of global supply chains. Companies that depended entirely on Chinese manufacturers or raw materials have been forced to close down temporarily with some closing shop completely. Businesses that will survive this pandemic have to look beyond first- and second-tier suppliers, especially for their key products’ raw materials, and expand their supply lines to bring in more players. Businesses also have to expand their markets. Having a contingency “plan B” will not be enough. You will need to diversify in all aspects of your business so that if one line closes or is unable to recover fast from the pandemic, you will always have alternatives.

3. Reach out to customers

Do everything that you can to retain your main customers. If they owe you, don’t be quick to pressurize them to pay because they are also struggling to get back on their feet. You can loosen repayment terms a bit to accommodate the new normal- this is one of the small prices you may have to pay in order to keep your business afloat. Your lenders are probably doing the same for you. The most important thing here is to maintain open communication lines with your debtors, creditors, and other clients and being honest with one another in case of any payment difficulties. In the long run, when you are all back on your feet, you will still have your customers, and cash will start flowing in as it used to.

Reaching out to customers also means reaching out to new markets, or offering more products to your existing market. If your existing market isn’t recovering as fast as other markets, it is okay to move your business elsewhere. If one of your competitors has closed shop, this is your chance to move in for their customers. Be courageous to fill in every gap that the virus could have created within your market, and to explore other options that could bring in additional cash provided they won’t compromise your brand identity.

4. Update your terms and conditions

There are some terms and conditions that you have held on for too long, some of which have left your business vulnerable during the ongoing pandemic. This is the time to scrap them all and create better terms that protect you from future crises. In fact, you would rather pull out of a contract now and pay the cancellation fee, rather than push on with it and incur losses in the end.

Going forward, you need to take a proactive approach in revenue, employee, clients, and commercial risks management. Crisis management is a process; not just an event. You will need all the teamwork and support that you can get if you are to pull this off. Flex your network and get rid of any dead weight.

covid

Post-COVID Logistics: Retooling for the Future

The impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt across global economies and businesses, but for the supply chain and logistics industry, challenges go beyond the present and threaten the future of operations and business continuity. These challenges redefine what prediction could look like for the logistics industry and what considerations should be taken to keep the supply chain moving.

Global Trade had the opportunity to speak with business owner and author of “The GOP’s Lost Decade: An Inside View of Why Washington Doesn’t Work,” Jim Renacci on what changes the industry can anticipate as the current health crisis continues to change the pace for global business.

What planning measures will logistics players need to consider in a post-COVID environment?

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has changed the way manufacturers/logistic players will need to review their supply chain management post-COVID-19 and access their supply chain vulnerabilities. The crisis has demonstrated that reliance on sourcing from two geographic areas could pose a risk.

During the crisis, while supplies became unavailable, many companies were forced to start looking for new supply chains as many of their overseas suppliers had to limit or reduce shipments significantly. Post-COVID planning will include asking current suppliers to take on more and different product lines. It is already happening with many current business relationships. Also, the reliability of the supply chain…. over cost…. will be more of a priority.

In what ways have supply chain players supported their customers and consumers during the crisis?

Manufacturers/supply chain players are supporting their customers by shifting and increasing supply chain needs where possible. In many instances, secondary suppliers have started adding product lines where possible. With any crisis, opportunities will be there for the business that can move quickly and adapt to change.

How will the manufacturing site selection process shift in a post-COVID world? 

Manufacturing site selection processes in a post-COVID world should include seeking locations within the US and other countries that have access to highly trained engineers, top tier R&D, access to advanced manufacturing technologies as well as private and public institutions and universities. Site selection should also include countries that offer a competitive investment package as more and more countries post-COVID will be looking to entice companies to locate or relocate inside their jurisdictions.

In what ways can logistics players use the disruption from COVID-19 to benefit their operations in the future?

Current disruption due to COVID-19 will allow companies to reassess their vulnerabilities but also their strengths. With these disruptions, companies can retool for the future. They can adjust for their weaknesses and benefit from their strengths.

_______________________________________________________________

Jim Renacci is the author of The GOP’s Lost Decade: An Inside View of Why Washington Doesn’t Work. He is also an experienced business owner who created more than 1,500 jobs and employed over 3,000 people across the Buckeye State before running for Congress in 2010. Jim represented Ohio’s 16th District in the House of Representatives for four terms. He is also the chairman of Ohio’s Future Foundation, a policy and action-oriented organization whose goal is to move the state forward.

agility

How Modern Services Enable Agility, Elasticity and Mobility in an Enterprise

Organizations across the globe have been tirelessly working on improving their agility and scalability. Due to a sudden change in the business landscape caused by COVID-19, business leaders suddenly found themselves having to rise to the call to action. The results are staggering – the unanticipated impact and pace of the global spread of COVID-19 caught businesses off guard. Many failed to quickly adapt to the changing circumstances as they were not well-equipped in their ability to scale down impacted resources and operations in response to a halt in customer demand. Some were just not ready to operate their businesses 100% remotely.

Conversely, in sectors such as healthcare and other essential services, several organizations could not keep up with the unexpected rise in demand as they lacked means to quickly ramp up their operations. Most of these companies that could not adapt to the changing circumstances had one or all the three critical traits of the modern enterprise ecosystem missing – agility, elasticity, or mobility.

In this article, we’ll discuss how organizations can make their ecosystem agile and elastic and support mobility – and how these qualities are going to help organizations scale their businesses in the long run.

The role of elastic services in business agility

In today’s world, businesses are faced with a variety of challenges that require they quickly adapt resources to address a dynamically changing environment. After the pandemic declaration, organizations found themselves having to provision new remote working solutions in a matter of hours. Monolithic application architectures are designed for a certain level of capacity. Sudden changes in demand add stress to existing resources, such as a rise in network utilization due to the entire workforce requiring VPN connectivity to on-premise applications. These networks may have never seen these levels of utilization before, and therefore, become bottlenecked, resulting in poor user experience or worse, slow mobilization of resources toward an urgent demand.

Adapting elastic services to actual demand

In other situations, agility is needed to pivot and re-invest resources away from impacted operations or loss in demand. An organization can consume elastic services and managed services to deploy the minimum resources needed to service actual demand. Managed services providers can help business units in distress with predictable, recurring services at fixed annual terms, which allows leaders to re-prioritize full-time staff members to newer product lines or more strategic initiatives. A well-positioned product organization with a properly designed Cloud-Native Architecture can auto scale with the minimum resources needed to run an application and scale out to meet the demands of a growth spurt.

Source: AWS

Flexible, collaborative, and secure digital spaces enable enterprise mobility

In addition to agility and elasticity, the third critical requirement that came to the spotlight during the recent crisis is enterprise mobility. Previously, IT leaders have elected to utilize digital workspaces as a flexible benefit to augment in-person activities with remote capabilities, such as the occasional work from home. However, it was not until the current crisis that several organizations looked at full-scale enterprise mobility as highly differentiating, if not mission-critical to success.

However, full-scale enterprise mobility is not a switch that one can just flip. It needs technological, cultural, and behavioral changes. The workforce, particularly newer generation workers prefer to work from home and operate more on results, rather than “working a shift.” Managed services providers can help businesses design a flexible remote setup that can be further leveraged to drive a culture of collaboration.

How to implement elastic services: The three-step approach

Given the requirements of each business are different, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy to ensure the successful implementation of elastic services and guarantee agility, elasticity and mobility in an enterprise ecosystem. However, following the three-step process described below helps organizations design a custom implementation plan suited to their needs.

Step 1 – Discover: Identify the business goals the organization is trying to achieve by implementing these services and the potential risks that can jeopardize the effort.

Step 2 – Analyze: Analyze the business goals and map them to the desired outcomes. Perform capabilities assessment against the current architecture – mapping out demand versus usage patterns and identifying the opportunities for modernization.

Step 3 – Plan: Define the implementation roadmap. Enterprises can choose the buy, build or partner route to implement and operationalize a modern enterprise ecosystem.

Elastic services make businesses risk-tolerant and sustainable

Setting up modern infrastructure and developing it to an enterprise-level, especially during this time of crisis, is a demanding task. However, enterprises must not look at this exercise to combat only the current crisis. An agile, elastic and mobile enterprise ecosystem helps companies tackle new initiatives with less worry. Consumption friendly elastic services can allow organizations to pay-as-you-go with minimal up-front investment costs. This ability allows organizations that can mobilize with high agility a competitive advantage in the experimentation of new initiatives or expansion to new markets while having a risk-managed auto-scaling architecture to turn down resources to what’s minimally needed to keep a foot in the game. Most importantly, the decision to fail fast and stop investing becomes more attainable and less regrettable.

__________________________________________________________

Joey Lei is the director of service management at Synoptek, a global systems integrator and managed services provider. Prior to joining Synoptek, he was a lead product manager for Dell EMC’s Data Protection Division. Lei managed product lines contributing half a billion in annual product revenues and was a founding product manager for Dell EMC PowerProtect Data Manager, Dell EMC’s newest generation data protection and data management solution. 

Email address: jlei@synoptek.com

paradigm shift

Will COVID-19 Spark a Paradigm Shift for Businesses?

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a dramatic impact on the global economy and reshaping businesses in lasting ways. According to our own research, the U.S. economy is expected to see a sharp recession for the first half of 2020, likely to be followed by a U-shaped recovery. What’s more, the number of business bankruptcies is expected to increase by 25% and unemployment is likely to surpass 20% in the next few months.

As governments, leaders and industries around the globe grapple with the effects of the pandemic, one thing is certain: the fragility of businesses has been exposed. The question we are faced with now is what the aftermath will look like. Will the consequences of this crisis permanently mark the business world? Will we see a paradigm shift in the way businesses transform their strategies and priorities?

A shift in business values

As we shift into a post-pandemic world, will the traditional drivers of a capitalist society (productivity, profit and growth) be re-evaluated by businesses? I believe the answer could be yes. We’re already seeing younger generations less attracted to capitalist values, according to a study published last year. If they want to attract and retain the next generation of top talent, companies must get more in tune with societal movements to attract younger generations and strengthen the meaning in their actions with a clear vision that has a reinforced long-term impact.

I also believe that this catastrophic event will force a greater partnership on a national level between governments, businesses and individuals. We’ve already seen this group come together to encourage solidarity and altruism during this time. Across the U.S., businesses are repurposing their products and services to help fight the pandemic and individuals are stepping into action to shop for their neighbors and set up support systems all while celebrating those on the frontlines of healthcare and emergency services each night. Even state governments are working together to allocate resources across state lines to combat the spread of the virus. This movement toward unity is what the country needs to emerge stronger post-pandemic.

Closely aligning business with altruism

It is possible that this very same concept of solidarity becomes a strong value in the business world too. Businesses who once competed against each other are coming together. We see this with the explosion of innovation at pharmaceutical companies who are joining forces to find a vaccine while large-scale manufacturers and small businesses have stopped their usual production in order to manufacture ventilators, hand sanitizer and medical masks.

Even our credit insurance industry is taking action. In Canada, credit insurers are partnering with their Export Credit Agency to offer government-backed insurance plans. In France, its main actors have recently mobilized with the government to reactivate support systems (known as CAP) with a global budget of 12 billion euros in order to help companies survive the impact of the economic deadlock. In Germany, credit insurers and the government have collaborated to guarantee the payment of compensation to businesses up to 30 billion euros. In other countries like the U.S and U.K, industry leaders are moving to create similar partnerships to better support their countries’ economies.

As companies begin to think through what a post-pandemic world looks like, a closer and more harmonious relationship between different businesses could be what’s needed. Instead of being passive on subjects that require a collective approach, businesses need to join together to adopt like-minded social, environmental and governance standards.

History has taught us that massive events can trigger important changes thereafter. For COVID-19, this could be synonymous with business transformation as companies are forced to rethink and realign their priorities. To prepare for the aftermath, companies must adapt, anticipate changes and accelerate their transformation to link work with a greater purpose. While a “before” and “after” are certain for the pandemic, the future of business and the extent of this paradigm shift remains to be determined. It’s not enough to just survive this unprecedented crisis but rather companies must emerge more innovative and united.

____________________________________________________________

Virginie Fauvel is the Chief Transformation Officer and Board Member for the Americas Region at Euler Hermes