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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Executive Education

Five Tips on How to Survive a Global Pandemic and Become a Better Leader

The reaction of most business leaders in our current climate is to retract – this means project cancellations, turning off marketing and ramping up caution. Is reaction merited? Not for leaders and entrepreneurs who want to succeed, because not only is this a time where we can thrive, it is a time where we can invent and innovate.

My company, Thin Air Energy, is putting products into production while bringing a marketing effort alive and raising money because opportunity only can go up. If you’re looking to survive this pandemic, you must fight, in this case, a very capitalistic fight where new leadership and nerves of steel will be rewarded in the future. COVID-19 did me a weird favor – it is clearing the marketplace of bad and no longer relevant products, opening a marketplace for better approaches and novel solutions.

Here are five tips on how we can survive and come out on the other side of this pandemic better leaders.

  1. Back to Basics
    This is a perfect time to re-evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. At the front end of a crisis, the threats are apparent, but the opportunities are not. But there is good news:  every crisis has opportunities. Cash analysis and survival calculations are part of the strengths, and maybe even your weaknesses. This will clarify the bounds of your Venn diagram of opportunities, and you will have taken the first step to surviving. Then dig back into opportunities some more: A different marketing approach? A different delivery method? An offering of services, prior to which was proprietary to your products? A new licensing plan? No matter where you go back to, make your group of trusted business friends larger, rehash the topic (quickly) and keep re-iterating until your re-invention has occurred.
  2. Be Confident and Worried
    Any leader who is not simultaneously confident and worried on the inside is a liar. Strengths and opportunities don’t kill businesses – not noticing your weakness and threats do. Some of this is an existential head game, aimed at turning your own mental space into thought patterns focused on strength, but those threats continue. By acknowledging your confidence and your worry, you can work through those feelings and then get to problem solving. Through it all, be transparent.
  3. Find Your Personal Grit
    This period is filled with perverse, tortuous uses of time, and requires unending grit. Prototypes are made, business plans are written, revised, pitched and thrown in the trash. Everything that an outsider expects, does occur. Find your personal grit. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, and keep plotting on how to keep the doors open. In failure, use time to explore what went wrong and how to reinvent. Examine your strategy to find new paths that lessen obstacles. Got an idea for a quicker path to market? Do it. Just keep going because ultimately your grit will drive you toward success.
  4. Accept the New Abnormal
    We are in the New Abnormal. Every obstacle that existed in the Old World still exists, but we may have to be a bit more creative going forward. I think the New Abnormal requires more bootstrapping and less pure plays – you can’t see your way to financing the Big Idea, so why not do the little idea, and grow it along the way? If you are aligned with a group like minded entrepreneurs, work together to achieve your goals. Ignore the intruders. There are fantastic opportunities hidden in this crisis. The thoughtful exploration of that fact helps provide emotional fuel to overcome obstacles.
  5. Mind your Personal, Mental Health
    The hardest thing to do is take time away from business fretting to do other things. I have succeeded by seeking peace in nature. I camp, I walk daily, and I give affection and table scraps to my dog. It is important to understand your limits and what helps you reset. If it means taking a day away from it all because it will result in a more productive you afterward, do it. This is not a time to skimp on your health, and in the end, you will likely be better for it.

Commentary by James Wiebe. Here’s what you’ve missed?
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James Wiebe
James is the CEO and founder of Thin Air Energy and has been a serial entrepreneur for more than 40 years. He grew his first company (Newer Tech) to >$60 million revenue while competing against Apple; then built WiebeTech within the emerging market of computer forensics and exiting profitably; and more recently, Chipper Aerospace was on the rise and profitable when destroyed by a fire. James has created IP in the computer hardware, data storage, aerospace and computer forensic markets. His market direction and designs are the result of insightful product development and consequent feedback from customers. James Wiebe is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on LinkedIn.