Part of the “What Makes Me Different” secret sauce is the emphasis on client achievement and learning. Yes, lots of people can fill out tax forms or compute payroll, but these are tasks, not accomplishments. I’ve been reading The Black Swan, an excellent book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb which deals with enormous events that seemed to come out of nowhere, such as the 1987 Stock market crash, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and, since I started the book, the worldwide pandemic that emerged from Coronavirus.

There are four major areas where I’ll group items, and I’ll provide updates within them.

Overview: Our friends in the Walmart logistics department have hurricane awareness procedures. When a hurricane is likely to strike an area, they have supplies loaded in trucks ready to dispatch. Key items: Bottled water (since electricity goes out and treatment plants go offline), shelf stable foods (especially pop-tarts), and beer. Home Depot loads up on portable generators and plywood. When people emptied out the stores this month, perhaps out of hurricane/blizzard learned response, items in demand were bottled water (???), toilet paper (????????), items to make french toast (bread, milk, eggs), and cleaning supplies – well, at least cleaning supplies make sense.

 

What can we learn from this? Keep a small safety stock of critical items. Don’t wait until you’re on the last roll of toilet paper in the house – when you open the last 4-pack, buy more. You don’t need a lifetime supply. You should always have some canned goods, coffee, and pasta in your pantry and when you open the last can of coffee, buy more then instead of waiting until the last can is empty.

 

For your business, make sure you have critical supplies – I always have toner and paper on hand because I don’t want to run out to Office Max just before a tax deadline. If you print checks, replenish them before you run out – your vendors will not buy the excuse that “we have the money but we don’t have checks to print”. While we’re on the subject, open a second business checking account that sits dormant. If your account is compromised, you’ll already have an account where you can deposit funds, re-direct credit card payments, etc. If the account is compromised on a weekend, you have better things to do than wait in line at the bank Monday morning to set up a new account.

Overview: We all have a need to work/learn from home RIGHT NOW. Our normal process of dropping the kids at school and going to the office has suddenly changed. Teachers have to quickly adapt to a virtual classroom instead of a physical one; the information that you need that was on the corner of your office desk is not on the corner of your kitchen table. The scanner you depend upon is now inaccessible. The documents that were conveniently in the file cabinet are still in the office, but you can’t access them.

So, how do you get things done?

Individuals and employees: Secured network access is necessary. So are cell phone numbers for the people you normally reach at their office phone. If your job is in accounts payable or depositing the checks that come in the (office) mail….things are going to get interesting. Likewise, if you work in an office with confidential information (for example,  CPA or medical office)  there are restrictions on what you can (or should) be able to take home. And, of course, there are business requirements for confidentiality.

Employers:  Now is the time to address these issues and find solutions. A few months ago would have been better, but…..

Find ways for employees to do their existing job. Forward the phones, have employees put helpful information on their out-of-office notices and voicemails. (“Hi- as Dallas county is now in lockdown/shelter-in-place, I’m not at my desk. You can reach me by email at xx or if necessary at my cellphone (xxx).”

Enable an email address for inquiries for different departments so they can be forwarded to different people.

Find ways for people to do partial work – do a draft of the proposal so you can later add detail rather than waiting to complete it all at one time.

 

Build your “Don’t Panic” book for lessons learned from this. Mine contains logins and passwords, the types of supplies I need and supplier contact information, banking information, and my IT guy’s contact information.

Sit-down restaurants are now closed in some areas of the country. How do you adapt? By closing off the seating area, letting customers know they can pick up their meal after ordering online or by phone, delivery services, or through the drive-through. Food stores have started seniors-only shopping hours. Grocery stores have changed their operating hours to allow shelves to be re-stocked. I’d like to think that labor-intensive stores have part-timers or waiting lists of employees who have already interviewed, already passed background checks etc. that can be activated immediately by phone or text – “Hey Grace, you worked for us before you went off to college – are you available now to pick up some hours?” Certain advance work has to be done – you need “to go” plates instead of fine china, Styrofoam cups instead of glass ones, etc. 

Recognize that other people will do irrational (buying a lifetime supply of toilet paper) and irresponsible (going on spring break with 10,000 of your closest friends when there’s a contagious virus) things. Accept the fact that you can’t change them – you can only change your exposure to and reaction to them. Also understand – everyone is under stress now whether they realize it or not. Take some time each day to center yourself – I practice yoga and am a big fan of the Calm.com app. You will probably encounter people who snap at you and who knows, you may even snap at them.