Due to recent events, and quite a bit of hysteria, some of you have more time on your hands than normal. Do not rest in these times. Work harder, think bigger, tighten and strengthen your position.
In the military, we call this “Position Improvement”. There is certain ethos of the Warfighter that are hammered into your brain. Certain times when you fall back on those ethos to continue moving forward. This is one of those times.
For the military, it’s the time right after you get to a new location, building, or patrol base where you will spend more than a few hours. The very next thing for a leader to do is set up a rotation of your personnel. There are several ways to do this but the major three are what I will cover here.
“Set up security, to include Firewatch and Guardian Angels.”
Firewatch is a sweetheart way of saying, “roving security keeping a watch of all things within the battlespace they can see from the ground while moving”. More than one person can be “on watch” at a time, and if so, make sure their areas of coverage overlap.
Guardian Angels are in charge of the elevated positions, usually fixed positions with cover and concealment. They can see further than the Firewatch and are watching over your position from above. Sometimes they may be watching from a block away or a building across the street. Their responsibility is to spot danger before it gets close enough to attack. If an attack happens, their job is to sound the alarm, defend from the high ground and call in targets or routes of approach.
The same is true in business, especially if your business depends on marketing, manufacturing, and shipping products. You can set up a Firewatch for all of those, and the good news is, it can be automated.
Facebook and Google Ads can be connected to dashboards for quick analysis of their performance. Ads can also be set up to automatically turn off if they are underperforming or adjusted to spend more on ads which are performing best. This automation can be set to email you a report. In essence, you have established a roving sentry to watch over your ads and sound the alarm if your systems are breaking down.
Your Guardian Angels in this case would be someone overwatching the system from afar, like at home from their laptop. They will report back to you any anomalies they can’t correct.
As soon as time permits, survey every inch of the space you occupy. What can you quickly do to improve your defenses? What is it that makes you weakest?
Fix those areas as quickly as possible. Fortify anything that could be a weakness.
Get reports from your Guardian Angels on any area they can’t see or any area that they think may be hard to defend. Sometimes foot patrols will be sent out on short “presence patrols” and brought right back into the base. While on patrol, they will discreetly be looking for ways to approach the base unseen, or finding obstacles or terrain which the enemy could use for concealment for an attack.
You can do this in your business, too. Send yourself secret shoppers. Call on your friends to test your customer service section or your ordering process. Which is weak? What doesn’t the market respond to? What can you do to quickly test your systems? Find the holes and plug them before they become major issues.
“After Action Reviews.”
The military is very good at making you think about everything by calling out your every mistake. From the first days of bootcamp, to the last days of the School of Infantry (SOI), to every After Action Review (AAR). In fact, they are so good at calling out mistakes, it becomes part of your DNA. You expect it. No mission or drill is perfect. Ever.
Every action in the military is put under a microscope as soon as the participants return from mission. It doesn’t matter how tired you are, how long you have been on mission and in some cases, it doesn’t even matter if you’re wounded. That intelligence collection step is so important to becoming a better Warfighter and establishing Lessons Learned (LL) for those who will go out on missions in the future.
For business owners, it is imperative to hold AARs with your team. What did we do? What was the outcome? What can we do better? What can we change to make the outcome better?
AARs are not the time for egos or pride. They are a time to tell everything you know, no matter how big or small.
We have a mantra in the military: “What do I know? Who needs to know? Have I told them?”
AARs are driven from the place of “Mission Accomplishment”. From a place where failure is not an option and lives are absolutely on the line.
In your business, livelihoods are absolutely on the line. You must succeed in order to maintain the financial security for you and your team. Your family and theirs all depend on the mission accomplishment of your business.
“The Invisible Enemy.”
Whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or the Horn of Africa, the enemy was never easy to see. The enemy didn’t wear a uniform, they didn’t move in formation, they didn’t have a base of operations for all to see.
Our Rules of Engagement (ROE) were very clear. We had to wait for a hostile act or hostile intent. To be declared an enemy combatant, the subject must have the intent, the means, and the ability to hurt us.
Our Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTP) had to change constantly as new intelligence was collected, new enemy trends were identified, and as more AARs were conducted to establish additional LLs.
This process was especially important because until Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the U.S. had not had large scale operations in a desert environment. That mission was swift and relatively quick in terms of war and learning.
From 2003 until present is an entirely different ballgame. The length of stay, the volume of missions and the LLs are vast. We now have entire volumes of manuals and case studies, checklists and battlebooks. Our military is now specially equipped to handle desert operations.
In your business, you can apply all of these concepts and principles. Identify each one for yourself:
“What is the enemy?”
Is it the market?
Is it your pride?
Is it complacency?
Is it COVID-19?
“What is your company’s ROE?”
How does your marketing change with the news?
How do you overcome objections?
What does your customer service say to customers complaining of late deliveries?
What can you do to triage your market activity? (sales are up, sales are down, returns are high)
“What are your TTPs?”
Do you need to change something to get a better outcome?
Do you have checklists, systems processes?
Are they up-to-date?
Do they work?
Let’s talk about COVID-19 as the invisible enemy. Is it? Maybe, maybe not. If you believe that COVID-19 is a business killer, you’re probably wrong. Can you be affected? Of course. This does not mean you have to sit still and let your business die. You can adapt, improvise, and overcome. You can beef up your company to withstand the pressures you or your team are facing. There is a way out. You can problem-solve your way to successfully weather the storm. Your ROEs now apply; act accordingly.
In non-COVID-19 news, marketing efforts are receiving massive bumps in sales and views. Some businesses are thriving. In a National poll of people not watching the news, issued by Axios, many homeowners, parents and retirees are enjoying this unexpected “at home time”, using it to finish home projects, spend time with family, and feel more relaxed with lower levels of stress than the previous 6 months.
Many businesses have found new ways to connect with their communities, and new ways to run their companies. For example, musicians that have shows cancelled are live-streaming on Social Media and collecting tips via PayPal and Venmo. With gyms and studios being closed, dance studios are live-streaming their regular classes, or having interactive Skype classes. Fitness companies are extending free trials for on demand programs. Restaurants have started delivery or curb-side services. Brick and mortar retail companies are offering to ship products. Offices began implementing Zoom calls for meetings that would normally be done in person.
These are problem-solving actions taken by forward-thinking companies, showing real progress to lowering overhead costs, which in turn should improve overall company health. The adaptability of businesses in uncertain times causes position improvement in the marketplace for those willing to put in the work. The fact of the matter is: this is life. Business owners must be problem-solvers. If they aren’t, if they use this as an excuse, if they cannot adapt, improvise, and overcome, their businesses will die.
While COVID-19 is a pandemic, and is currently the number one focus of the world, we will come out of this. While we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in the future, we can use past events to aid in general predictions for the COVID-19 impact.
While these events will not be forgotten, for those not directly affected by the virus, it will be remembered and used as a statistic, a warning, even a political device. Think about 9-11. It was a devastating time for our Nation. We banded together as a community. We helped each other, and promised to “Never Forget”. We haven’t forgotten, but many things have changed. Almost everyone in the world was affected in some way by 9-11. But there are children who don’t remember the National Emergencies after the attacks. There are those who never knew a time when you could escort your loved ones to the gate at the airport. Anyone currently under the age of 19 only reads about the attacks in history books, thinking of it along the lines of the Revolutionary War or Civil War. We didn’t forget, but the way we remember it and deal with the repercussions have changed.
News is continually happening. The Chandra Levy case was the only event anyone was talking about…and then 9-11 happened. The Presidential Impeachment was the number one news story until COVID-19. Do you remember that Farrah Fawcett died hours before Michael Jackson? In this age of the 24-hour news cycle, there is always a new story. Not that any of these incidents are unimportant, or more important than the next, but unless you are personally and directly affected by a current event, it will take a different place in your everyday life.
While COVID-19 is a very polarizing topic, almost everyone can agree most of the media is capitalizing off fear. The public as a whole is eating it up. Whether you watch Fox News, or CNN, Al Jazeera or the BBC, you are getting 24/7 information, and much of it is contradictory. With people being home, the news ratings are at an all time high. The people watch, the news channels respond, and just to hold the interest of the masses, the news has to keep upping the scare factor.
Do not succumb to the hype. Just do what you need to do to protect yourself, the same way you would if you were trying not to catch the flu, or chickenpox or a stomach bug. Pretend like you have COVID-19. What can you do to take care of your community and not spread it? Pretend like everyone else has COVID-19 without knowing. What can you do to keep your distance? Pretend that every surface is contaminated outside of your home, or pretend like when we were kids in a fancy store with our parents. Don’t touch anything you don’t need to. Put your hands in your pockets to resist the urge.
There are two types of people. Those with the innate need to place blame, make excuses, think the worst of everyone and every situation while living a life with a scarcity mindset. And then there are those who choose to take a different path. Those who choose to see the good, to make a difference, to make lemons into lemonade with a mindset of mission accomplishment. Be the latter. You can combat the invisible enemy and your business will survive.