March 17, 2020

This video provides insights, perspectives, and guidance for leaders who are accountable for leading the response to COVID-19 in their organization. It features the Leadership Team from Rhapsody Strategies — Rob Dale, Eric Deschamps, and Trefor Munn-Venn — sharing what leaders are focused on thus far during this crisis.

Below is the transcript of the conversation.

Transcript Begins Here

COVID-19 has absolutely made its presence known. We’re now middle of March and things are changing very quickly. And in fact I would go as far to say Thursday of last week. Today is Monday, what’s a very different Thursday in a very different week. And quickly we’re seeing changes play out in our businesses, in our countries, in our families, in our communities. And these are moving very, very quickly. My name’s Trefor Munn-Venn, I’m here with Eric Deschamps and Rob Dale from Rhapsody strategies and we wanted to take a little bit of time to talk to you about what we’re learning and seeing and hearing in all of the conversations we’re having with business leaders and with our clients and really just to really touch base and connect with you and begin a process working together to share what we’re learning, to give you pragmatic and useful tools, resources and insights, some of which we’ve been developing.

Some are going to be coming from clients, some from [inaudible] resources that you can absolutely trust. Uh, public health will point the way to that and we’ll provide a additional set of resources over time that will continue to update. But we thought why don’t we just start with [inaudible] a bit of a conversation about where we are today and uh, and I want to talk about maybe if it’s all right, Eric, I’ll probably start with you here around leadership because these are anxious times and it’s requiring a whole other level of leadership than many people are accustomed to or used to. Um, for some, maybe even more than they’re ready for. How do we prepare them and what are we seeing in terms of how to lead in a context? Yes. Well, I mean for, for most leaders, this is a new territory. They haven’t led through this kind of season in their life, in their business.

And regardless of what one feels about what’s in the news and all over social media, I think for the last several weeks, a lot of leaders have been in asking themselves a question, you know, is this thing for real? How real, what’s the impact going to be? And to your point earlier, even up until last Wednesday, Thursday, it seemed like, okay, there’s going to be some impact, perhaps [inaudible] what we think it’ll be. And uh, and then, uh, here we are Monday, March 16th, and it’s a, it’s a very different world that we live in. Uh, the important thing for leaders is now is not a time for panic. We get that there’s a lot of anxiety. Uh, I mean we’re all leaders here on this call. We have a business to be responsible for. We have families, we have children. This is impacting us on many, many fronts and some anxiety is quite normal.

Um, and, and, uh, if you’re feeling anxious, you’re not alone, you’re very good company. But it’s important that we don’t panic. Now’s the time for leadership and for courageous leadership throughout history. Leaders that are remembered are the ones that lead true times of crisis and helped not necessarily all the right answers. Uh, and I think this is the, the challenging thing that we’re facing right now is, um, all of us putting those in, you’re watching this video having to make decisions for your business. Where you don’t have a how to manual, you don’t, uh, past history necessarily to go on. You’re going to have to make some tough calls as you look at the current circumstances. Your client. Yeah. The situation we find ourself in and you’re going to have to make sure some decisions and some of them in time, maybe there was, might’ve been a better way.

Okay. But the point is we can’t avoid making those decisions. That’s where leadership comes in and it’s going to take courage. And if I want to say anything, and I think all three of us, I want to say this, It is, you’ve got it in you. Yeah. It’s in you to do this. You’re, you’re stronger than you realize. Um, and what’s really important, I think in times like this is, I think this is probably a time where leaders feel the most and feel the most alone. They often are trying to be strong for their teams or trying to be strong for their families. The question becomes who’s strong for you? Uh, and so having that strong support, leaning on others in your community, leaning on trusted advisors that you have in your network, this is where this stuff really, really matters so that you can be that courageous leader.

I had a very difficult time, Eric. I love it. But you’re using the language of courageous leadership because this is an uncertain time and there will be critics when leaders in these seasons make decisions. You may have employees in a business, you may have outsiders, clients are there, individuals who criticize the decisions you make. The important thing is that you make the decisions that are right for your business, right for you and recognize, and I love that you, you’ve already said this, your permission to even make the wrong decision as long as you’re making the decisions that in a moment you are doing for the right reasons and the critics will come, the credits will go. I can’t make the decisions based on them. So I love that language of courageous leadership.

Well, I think it’s clear all of us want to make the best decisions possible. But unfortunately, again, with little to go on, sometimes, I mean, in the news cycle it’s changing. It seems in the last few days, uh, you know, it’s changing moment by moment. Uh, if things are really escalating and probably will be escalating more before they deescalate, you’re, you’re going to make some wrong decisions in the process. This is just par for the course, but you can’t not make a decision. That’s, that’s the critical piece is that you’re called upon to, to lead in your business. And again, I think what’s important is who you surround yourself during this time so that you’re not going through this by yourself. I think we’re big fans of we’re better together. Um, and leaning on others who are going through similar. I mean, I know that’s part of why we’re recording this call.

I know we’re going to be recording others gathering, Oh, the community of leaders that we work with, trying to bring them together because there is great strengths. Yeah. In those numbers. I know of a lot of people who are, um, they’re updating their Twitter feed kind of every 30 seconds right now. And, uh, lo and behold, there’s actual new updates every year, 30 seconds or so. And so I think to your point there, it’s, it’s about filtering out the noise. It’s getting focused in on the things that really matter. I think as business owners, as leaders, those who take courageous leadership also have to decide who they are going to listen to, who will be those trusted advisors in their corner. Uh, what resources are going to, uh, approach. I appreciate so much that our support team, I know what Rhapsody is put together, a [inaudible], a, a, a blog post with, you know, some links to specific Mmm.

Uh, websites and information. The business owners and leaders can get better from reputable sources. That’s so critical. Uh, it’s, it’s being able to, uh, make sure that we’re not overreacting to what is happening in the news feed. But again, we’re able to take that time. Uh, I have a, I’ve got an Apple watch and every so often my Apple watch kind of vibrates. And it reminds me to breathe. Okay. Probably one of the best things that we can do, uh, during a season like this is to remind ourselves, even as leaders, to take a moment to pause, to recognize that, uh, we are going to be okay. We don’t know what the path is to being okay will be, we don’t know the journey that we’re going to take, but in the end we need to breathe, we need to pause, we need to surround ourselves with people all right.

In order to get the right information so that we can make the right decisions. And the more we do that, uh, the more we will, I think, be able to, again, make those right decisions that will support our companies, our clients, our employees, uh, our community at large. So guys, and let’s make it a little more specific here cause we talk about who’s your trusted advisors, who do you bring inside? Cause these are the critical moments, right? And she and your, you know, it’s so resonates with me when you’re saying, yep, people are going to criticize you cause you’re in a leadership role in a difficult time. So they’re here to be those and you can see it already saying you’re overreacting. Yup. And there are others you’re saying you’re under-reacting right? I think in part our messages, you’d better act, right? Well, no matter what else happens, this is the time not to be, not to stop acting, not to stop.

This is still a time for motion and choosing and deciding. Yeah. Ooh, who are we looking to when we bring people together, the trusted advisors that people need in these moments, right. Uh, who do you turn to? W we always talk about the big four. You know, your accountant, uh, your business lawyer, your coach or consultant that you work with and your financial advisor, those are great sources who understand typically your business, understand your operations and who can give you solid advice, uh, from a place of caring for you and your business. But not being in the weeds and being so emotionally invested that sometimes it’s hard to see forward. So those are really great sources of support and information. Yeah, and I, I, you know, and at the risk of sounding self-serving, uh, you know, uh, and I recognize that it can, it can come across this way.

Those that know us know that we really do run Rhapsody, uh, with, with integrity. Uh, our desire is to serve and support the meant for more community, the business community at large, uh, including a coach in that list of strategic partners. It’s something that we deeply, genuinely believe in. We have a coach outside of Rhapsody that we turn to when we need advice and we need direction. Far too many. We’ve all been in this situation. We know clients are, we know individuals who they turn to their spouse or to employees. Uh, and oftentimes in situations like this where you’re making really difficult decisions, those are probably not necessarily them [inaudible] Oh to turn to adding additional burdens on them and struggles when it comes to making those systems. So I think that coaches is absolutely critical. In a season like that. And then yes, an accountant is engaged in your business, a lawyer who understands the ramifications of the decisions that you make, financial advisors, there may be others that people have.

All right. And certainly one of the things we mentioned I think earlier in this call that we are going to be even gathering some business owners. We want to learn from some of the [inaudible] he people that we have worked with on some of the things that they do. And one of the things that we’ll learn from them. Great strategic partners. What are the voices, who are the voices that you should be including into their circle of where you’re getting your information during this season? Don’t discount it. So having the right people and making sure they are the right people who are not in it for themselves. What are in it for your best interests, uh, is so critical when you are trying to take courageous leaders. And I would just add one more thing to that. Don’t discount the value of key members of your team.

Being able to spur it with great wisdom and insight into something like this. It’s just often very wise to get some outside perspective. And then from the folks that are on the front lines of your business together, usually that’s how the best solutions emerge. Yeah. And clearly it’s not a time to be alone. It’s not a time to be the lonely leader off distance like [inaudible] quite quite ironically in a context. Social distancing. We need to come closer together. Yeah. Two with the right people who are going to help us. And truly, you know, as you quite rightly said, people who are in our corner who truly have our interests at heart and you know, those are the people that you need right now. Uh, more than ever. More than ever. You know, the, um, we often use this expression, we’ll say, you know, if the business was sitting right here, it was sitting in this chair next to you, what’s it trying to say to you?

Right. And so there’s these questions that the business is always asking. Those questions come in lots of different ways. But I guess maybe the question I’ll pose to you guys right now is know what are the questions that businesses are asking leaders that need to be addressed right away. We’re going to talk about quite a number over the course of the days ahead for sure. Well, what are some of the core ones that people need to be leaders need to be focused on immediately, uh, in response to what their businesses need? I’d say the first one you need to be looking at is obviously asking about your cashflow, your, your, your Baton, the strength of your business from a cash perspective, revenue perspective. There’s a lot of businesses right now, they’re taking a big hits, uh, many of them that have had to shut their doors temporarily.

All right. And you can imagine the stress that that puts the company under. Um, but whether or not your doors are open or not watching your spending [inaudible] doing everything you can to eliminate non essential spending. And I’m, I emphasize the word nonessential because cutting it off your expense line doesn’t mean necessarily that’s the best decision for the business. You may very well need that, uh, that service or that product or whatever it is too, continue to be flowing in order for your business to be resilient. But anything that’s not essential, anything that’s extra curricular, uh, you know, there should be an immediate freeze on that obviously. Um, and, and, and monitoring your cash flow position very carefully. Let me, let me jump to just for a second, Rob. There’s a great expression that just so resonates with what you just said, Eric, which is no one ever cut their way to greatness.

You know, you’re not, you can’t cut your way to success. There are prudent measures that you need to take in particular circumstances, but that prudence, that insight, that wisdom and not to make it as [inaudible], you know, a short term knee jerk reaction about what we need to do to be very thoughtful around it. Um, I, I like how you say around non-essential. Do you actually know what is the essence of your business? Like it raises a great question which reveals a lot. Thanks Rob. Jump in on that. And that’s, and that’s a great question. You’re asking right there in both the essence of your business. We’re hearing a lot of old panic spending right now and, and so the knee jerk reaction could be, I’m just going there, I’m going to cut every expense I possibly can without asking some good questions. And I think, you know, Eric, you mentioned a couple as well and asking some questions before you cut.

Maybe it’s a software, maybe it’s a subscription to some service or whatever it might be to be able to ask some questions. What’s the value this is bringing, uh, what is the, you know, what was the [inaudible] would be the impact of me not having this service or this product. Having certain questions you ask me before you make the decision to cut. And then this is where you even mentioned about trusted us, some key employees or our trusted advisors having their input into what are some of the things that would, uh, would make sense to put it on pause and to look at what those are. And so I think there’s some really important, don’t do it panicked. Don’t do it though of reacting, but do it out of what is the most, what makes the most sense for your business? And, and speaking of staff, one of the first places that people are asking is how am I going to keep them?

Especially cash is not strong and revenue’s taking a big hit. How am I going to keep my people employed? And that’s a difficult, that’s probably one of the most difficult questions cause it’s, there’s so many layers to it, not just the business operations and the feasibility of it, but there’s all kinds of emotional layers tied to that. Most leaders worth their salt care about their people deeply, uh, and, and the families that they represent. Um, what I would say, uh, I think we, and we’re all in agreement just to do everything it can, uh, to keep your people employed where possible and where you feel that that will be at risk and then to begin those conversations sooner than later with them about what are some [inaudible] potential options. Are there, uh, you know, part time hours? Are there shorter work weeks available or they work from home arrangements?

What are all the things that you can do to minimize that impact? I know that the government is promising now, uh, all kinds of support. We don’t know what that’s going to look like. The frontline levels for businesses, it’s too early to tell. I know that even BDC is offering short term support and we’ve got links about that on our website. But again, it’s, it’s starting the conversation sooner than later. Go right back to, uh, where we started about courageous leadership. Now’s not a time to panic. Now. It’s not a time to react with deer in the headlights type of response. Um, where there are hard conversations to be had. You’re better off starting them sooner than later. And I think it’s by having those conversations, by being honest and candid with your, with your team, with your employees. Um, you know, I, I had a business owner that I saw posts, um, earlier today where they were struggling around do I close?

Do I stay open? And their biggest fear is if I close, how do I help my employees because I won’t have the revenue and I just simply can’t do it. And we’re certainly seeing large corporations on social media, some of them being shamed or being criticized, they’re not providing, continuing to pay the salaries, people that are being laid off. Th th that’s just, you know, the reality is a small business owner, often times, most of the time, not in the cards to be able to continue to cover that. It’s important that you’re not a bad person, right? But there are times and situations and that’s why as you point out there, the government is stepping in to help to support people in those circumstances. Uh, but how have those conversations, I think most if the, if the relationship between you and your team is good, those conversations will be healthy.

Appreciate it. The owner being honest and straight forward and walking them through the process of what they’re trying to do. People get it is that, you know, the last thing we want to see you do is lose everything in your business because you’re trying to do good in short term and not be able to sustain things longterm. And so make those decisions but have the conversation, right? There’s so many competing elements, which is what adds so much complexity to the situation is what does the business need? What does my team need? What do I need? What do my clients need? What does the community need? What does my country, you know, all of these things are actually stitched together and really brought to the foreground very quickly. The, um, uh, how do you communicate that? How do you communicate in a context where you have all of these different perspectives?

Maybe some of them are conflicting. I’m not sure the, uh, you know, there, there are different pieces depending on the business side, you know, the interests of one may not be the same as others. What guidance are you guys giving right now? Or what are you hearing or what are your thoughts on how to communicate in this kind of context? I think it communicate carefully. And part of that is, I mean, you, you think, think it through before sending out a blast email of any sort, really be clear about the message, be clear about what, you know, the timing, uh, of the message. Uh, but it’s, it’s like what we said about employees. The sooner you can engage in a conversation and at least open the channels of the communication and keep those channels open as best as possible, I think that’s where you create an environment where the best message will come through.

Uh, again, uh, an open door of communication. Even if mistakes are made in the process, they can be easily repaired, right? And it’s taken that, you know, changed or modified as we go along based on changing information. But the key is to be initiating the often is better than waiting. Uh, and a lot of the, we’re seeing that a lot in the marketplace right now. Businesses are a lot of them doing their best to communicate with clients. And, uh, even in situations where some of the big box stores and had to close, close up shop, at least clients know, uh, and customers know and appreciate the communication. So you’ve got to think of timing. You’ve got to think about content. Uh, but what’s most important is create that channel, keep it open, and make sure that people can reach out to you and readily. And I, and I would also add, use as a foundation for your communication.

Kind of base it on the right information, the, you know, use the, uh, we go back to again, filtering out the noise. Uh, don’t send out a communication based on some video that you might’ve seen, share it on Facebook or something, but use go to the right, uh, sources. Uh, you know, uh, we often see a lot of the businesses are quoting neither of the, you know, the Canadian, um, medical, uh, recommendations or their local city, uh, health recommendations. And they’re using those as the guide for the decisions they’re making. And I think for most, most employees, most clients, most customers are going to respect, even if they disagree with the decision, they’ll respect that you’re using and you’re basing it on the right information, you know, whatever information it really is, not the time for amateur perspectives. Uh, I think this is a great moment to draw on the expertise, uh, that is around the world, that’s in our own country, that is wholly dedicated to it, that has a full system that understands the implications.

And, you know, if I were perhaps to offer a bit of a challenge to people, it would be, let’s make sure we’re not standing any flames. Right? This is not a time for panic. This is not a time for fear. It’s certainly a time for caution. It’s certainly a time for prudence and wisdom and careful thinking and thoughtful action. Um, but it’s not a time for panic and fear. And, uh, I think more and more of that is actually working against communities, against individuals in the communities against business, um, too, because it over inflates specific situations and starts to send the wrong message. And I think, you know, uh, some people will say, well, perception is reality. I’m never quite sure what I think about that. I think reality is reality. And our job as leaders is to actually help people align their perception to reality.

Uh, and so to help people see the truth of what’s happening, uh, but not to overinflate it as it goes as well. And I think whatever we can do as leaders to continue to support that, uh, the, this is a powerful thing to do. That’s brilliant. Just a final thought for me. It’s a, right now I think leaders are feeling, uh, probably haunted by what if scenarios. Yeah. Uh, what if this happens? What if back is wrong? What if this gets worse? Um, and those what if scenarios. It’s, it’s hard not to get caught up in them, but the focus should be what now? Right? What do I do now? What’s the next step? What’s, what do I do this afternoon? What do I do tonight? What do I do tomorrow? Uh, focused on, uh, deliberate, thoughtful action, um, based on good and solid thinking. You may not get it right every time, but you’ll get it right a lot more times than you get her wrong.

So instead of what if focused on the word, yeah, it was fine. The only thing I would have as well two to five is you’re not alone. And I know we’ve said it a couple of times on this call. Uh, you know, the three of us, we have been in meetings for most of the day today with our team, uh, w together know three of us it meetings. Um, and I don’t think any of us could stress it enough is that you’re not alone as a business owner. Um, you don’t need to be alone. Community is what’s so critical and uh, we are certainly here to support you and I think that’s our plan to do even throughout this week is to be able to provide those messages. Absolutely. Absolutely. Gentlemen, I wanna thank you. Uh, I think the fact that we are together is, uh, is it makes a huge difference for all of us.

We’ve all got different versions of this going on. We talked about earlier today and the support from one another is essential, but that support isn’t limited to the three of us. This is a support that is central to who we are as an organization, and we’re going to continue to share information, a good, reliable, pragmatic, actionable information, uh, that you’ll be able to use, uh, in the course of leading your business as well. Uh, we can’t stress enough. You’re not alone. We’re here for you as well. Let’s continue to work together and stay calm. Keep leading. Don’t stop. Thank you. Thanks. 

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