‘We went from talking about sales acceleration and strategic plans to working in survival mode!’
I’ve been counseling businesses from the Fortune 500 to small businesses as a strategic partner for more than two decades. Believe me… I’ve seen my fair share of ups and downs! Perhaps that’s why I was recently interviewed to gather my thoughts on where we’re at as a business community and what we must do in order to recover successfully. Here is a transcript from that interview… Enjoy!
Interviewer: How would you describe the current recession… How does it compare to 2008?
Sam Palazzolo: I remember well the great recession of 2008. I had just left a successful corporate career at Toyota, including working retail running a few large franchises. I had just launched my second company when the recession hit (Good timing, right?) What we are seeing now is a similar pattern, albeit greatly accelerated. The difference between is that was a financial meltdown… This is a medical pandemic induced recession.
After successfully exiting a startup I was leading, I formed my current company (Tip of the Spear Ventures) in 2012. Part of my job is providing business advisory services to a host of clients. The advisory services focus on three (3) specialties as subject matter experts (SMEs):
- Sales / Business Development
- Mergers & Acquisitions
- Business Turnarounds
Interviewer: Set the stage for us… How were things going before all this happened?
Sam Palazzolo: I had been on pace to travel this year for 40+ weeks, down from my typical 48 weeks annually. The clients I visited were actively seeking help with their businesses, primarily in architecting Strategic Plans and Sales / Business Development blue prints until it all blew up and the phone calls started.
Interviewer: What hit first?
Sam Palazzolo: At the same time the order came to shut down and stay home, there was also a request to identify what to do now? So we were working right away with business owners early on.
Interviewer: How did your job change through all this?
Sam Palazzolo: I spent the majority of my days answering phone calls, texts and emails. We pulled together some intellectual property regarding the pandemic, and specifically what to do about it as a business leader. Based on our research, we compiled and presented webinars… Lots of webinars! To date, and we just calculated this figure at the end of May, we had completed roughly 70 webinars.
Interviewer: What were the webinars about?
Sam Palazzolo: We took a two-pronged approach. The first focus was on business survival — what can businesses do to preserve cash runway, raise funds, adjust sales forecasts, consider appropriate marketing, implement headcount strategies, and control capital spending.
These played themselves out in webinars on leadership, working remotely, virtual sales techniques, serving the customer virtually, and more. At the end of each webinar, we always make a point of polling participants for what additional topics they’d like to see researched/presented. This has fueled future session development on all too timely topics.
Interviewer: What kinds of issues have you encountered along the way?
Sam Palazzolo: Like everyone else, we’re working remotely. This poses several challenges, namely ensuring that you have the proper home office setup (Best internet bandwidth available, phone connections, etc.) You can count on the unexpected occurring! The big question is how will you overcome these technology challenges and make sure you receive forgiveness from participants.
Interviewer: What other issues are business leaders dealing with?
Sam Palazzolo: The top issues are reduction in income and sales, of course. Businesses were closed by direct order of the government, considering some essential and the vast majority non-essential. That’s what makes this unique. Usually a downturn in the economy takes a little time to develop, giving business leaders time to prepare. But this was on a huge scale, all at once. Roughly 15% felt as though they were thoroughly prepared to face the oncoming pandemic… Only 15%!
Interviewer: What’s the scenario in a normal recession?
Sam Palazzolo: Typically, if you think about an economic wave, the crest of the economic wave, things are going well and then something happens that starts a decline and the economy contracts. Normally that takes weeks or months to play out. Then you hit the bottom of the recession, the trough, that can last 16 to 18 months and the recovery begins, eventually leading back to prosperity. What makes this so unique is the sudden drop-off to a recession. As I mentioned previously, this is a medical pandemic NOT a financial pandemic. Regardless though, in a matter of days things began to plummet putting an immediate hardship on all businesses.
Interviewer: So, if everything reopens, is there a shortcut to the recovery phase?
Sam Palazzolo: Some believed early on that it could return to normal as quickly as it came upon us. A lot of it depends on how this plays out with the virus itself. People are now understanding it’s going to be with us for a while, which means a new normalcy, new health and safety standards across the board. It’s going to change a number of existing business models. People at this stage are doing a lot of hypotheticals about how requirements will affect business. The customer base, the employees, the supply chain.
Interviewer: Where are we now?
Sam Palazzolo: We’re in the pre-recovery period right now. We’re still assessing new information from the state and regulatory agencies on how to reopen. A number of businesses are weighing their options — is it worth continuing or just shut the thing down and move on. That’s a tough, stressful period for business owners and families. Our acquisitions business has helped identify a positive recovery path. Keep in mind, in any downturn in the economy you’ll see some businesses end up closing. Those businesses who do survive are often in a much better place. The reason being, former competitors are gone, creating an opportunity to grow. Others find new opportunities. It’s a cycle.
Interviewer: What is happening now with your clients?
Sam Palazzolo: We went from talking about sales acceleration and strategic plans to working in survival mode!