Follow the Leaders
As a business leader you are at the tip of the spear making significant decisions that affect real people. It is a lonely place to be most days. The stakes could not be higher, and as business leaders, we have great responsibility and opportunity as we navigate our way through this crisis. Over the last eight weeks, you have been inundated with articles and guidance on the things that you need to be doing, right now…PPP, loan forgiveness, cash flow modeling, layoffs, furloughs, rehires, open, close, PPE, testing, screening,…the list goes on and on.
We also know that leading an organization is often a thankless job, particularly when faced with making hard decisions that may put employees in tough positions. Now is a good time to step back and reflect on the accomplishments. Allow us to take a moment to simply say THANK YOU for your leadership during this health crisis, business disruption and preparation for the economic challenges we will surely face even as COVID subsides and the business disruption lifts.
We’ve seen this cycle happen before and we know will be stronger as a business community and nation. But it is painful, right now. But don’t lose heart, a business leader and friend of mine said it so well at the onset of this crisis, “the work that we are about to do will be the most important work that we will likely ever accomplish in our careers.” So again THANK YOU for leading, and congratulations on having the guts to make critical decisions in rapid-fire succession to protect your businesses and the families that it supports, and for persevering.
As we navigate situations that are new and unfamiliar, I encourage you to establish your absolutes….define them and write them down. If you don’t, you will risk deviating from what’s most important to you, your business and your people. Share them with others that keep you accountable and use them as a cornerstone as you continue to solve problems, evaluate risks and make decisions.
We have been forced into opportunities to make critical decisions but the work we are doing right now will set us up for the future. We need to be quick to react or face the realities of running out of time. Paraphrasing Peter Drucker, I leave you with this, “in turbulent times we can’t act with yesterday’s logic.” We all can benefit from fresh material, broad insights, objective candor and the ability to press into hard decisions with counsel from others.
You are members of the Virginia Council of CEOs because you value outside perspective, just like we advise because we value helping companies and their leaders make and execute on key decisions at critical points in their journey. We are here to help you find your straightest path forward.
Chip Bowman is a Managing Director responsible for developing Fahrenheit’s business in Virginia and providing clients with customized strategies for solving their challenges and growing their business. He is skilled in leading operations and finance functions across numerous public and private industries including banking, healthcare, family business, education, manufacturing, and real estate development. He has a demonstrated ability to drive growth based on strategic vision and management of daily operations through process improvement, performance management, systems building, financial initiatives, and policy design and implementation. Chip also has experience in turnaround situations for middle market clients.
It is a gap in the labor market that ultimately birthed two businesses, and the young CEO at the helm is embracing the pandemic challenges he now faces.
“One of my favorite parts about being a business owner is being faced with challenges and then formulating different strategies to overcome them,” says Corey Divine, president of Candidate Source and a member of VACEOs. “The past six weeks have presented unique challenges for my employees, clients, and vendors and together we have had to make adjustments. It is important to realize that everyone is dealing with this pandemic and the only way we can survive is to support each other and work together.”
Corey Divine’s initial business, Rent-the-Help, opened in 2012. The business model filled a gap he saw in the residential labor market. It gave homeowners a place to go for help with odd jobs, like cleaning out a shed or helping with yard work.
Says the Charlottesville native: “In the eight years we’ve been in business, we’ve probably helped 5,000 people move or do an odd project, whether it be stacking firewood, setting up for a yard sale, or move to Florida or Texas,” he explains. “But as we got into more staffing and long-term placements in warehouses and administrative settings, the Rent-to-Help name just didn’t fit fully as we grew,” he adds.
Noticing the new niche, Divine developed a business designed to attract quality candidates and clients who were seeking long-term placements. And in 2020, Candidate Source was born.
Divine reports Candidate Source currently employs six different individuals to recruit and market his business.
“I’m really excited about the rebrand and how it positions us. I think that our team, most importantly, is excited about it. They all feel more confident telling people, ‘Hey, we’re with Candidate Source.’ They feel better. And what’s cool is that they’ve all been here, all my senior folks, who’ve been here for five plus years. So they’ve seen the evolution of the company grow and then they can enjoy this change as well,” he explains.
About the new challenges he is facing, he adds, “Since our team spends the majority of their days interviewing candidates, we have had to significantly adjust our operation to ensure we can continue to deliver our clients the people they need. While expanded unemployment benefits have made recruiting more challenging (applications have dropped by 90%), our team has gotten creative and has been able to deliver what our clients need. During these difficult times it is a privilege to continue to service our clients and we look forward to building even stronger relationships with them in the months to come.”
“Having my roundtable has been a blessing throughout the pandemic. The relationships I have built with roundtable #13 over the past few years have proven to be a solid rock during an otherwise unstable time.” – Corey Divine
Corey Divine joined the Council in 2017, making him a relatively new member. What motivated him to join? “Because I wanted to invest in myself and make my business better by making myself better,” he tells us.
Adding, “I always joke that you might walk into your roundtable meeting or walk into a Quarterly Lunch and you’re just super-stressed or struggling with an issue in your business. And I can’t think of a time where I walked out more stressed than when I walked in. I always feel calmer. And I think that’s just because it provides an education and a confidence as you go about your day. You look at all these folks, at what they are doing and how they are impacting our community in a positive way. I want to do more of that. It breeds a growth mindset, which is really exciting.”
Members within the VA Council of CEOs are placed within confidential and highly-structured peer groups. A safe haven, where members share what is going on in their lives and in their businesses. The Roundtable experience sharing is about addressing the CEO as a whole.
“Having my roundtable has been a blessing throughout the pandemic. The relationships I have built with roundtable #13 over the past few years have proven to be a solid rock during an otherwise unstable time,” says Divine. “We have spent many hours sharing resources, giving feedback, and just having simple conversations. Having fellow CEOs on speed dial who are navigating similar challenges is something that dollars can not buy. It has been great to see what so many VACEOs Members have done for our community and I look forward to continuing to work together in the months to come.“
True to his character, Divine is an active member, showing up at almost every event and even volunteering as chair of the Membership Committee. He’s quick to encourage his fellow members to become active in the VACEOs community as well.
“I encourage members to go to Council events. You won’t regret it,” he says. “The education is great and I feel like the more you invest in the community, the more the community will invest in you, and you will get more value from your membership. And I can speak firsthand because whenever I join organizations, I get in the weeds and try to help improve in any way I can and serve in any way I can. And it’s always benefited me in a positive way. It’s a good investment.”
Ready to invest in yourself? Virginia Council of CEOs has developed a special no-cost membership in response to COVID-19. Visit VACEOs Community Membership page to learn more.
(VIDEO) COREY DIVINE EXPLAINS WHY HE JOINED VA COUNCIL OF CEOs
To say that many small and mid-sized Virginia business owners find themselves on an emotional and operational roller coaster today is an understatement.
“We as CEOs have been plummeted into chaos, and the levels of stress for us have accelerated exponentially,” says Connie Hom, CEO of Buckingham Greenery. “We are taking the lead in this crisis, and our teams look to us not only for empathy, but also for guidance and true leadership. This is probably the best test of how we’re leading.”
As the backbone of the U.S. economy, how will small business CEOs manage the COVID-19 crisis? Some, like Hom and Charlie Connell, CEO of PUNCH, are finding a safe haven in confidential (and virtual) peer roundtable meetups. Both Hom and Connell are members of the Virginia Council of CEOs, and Hom says her roundtable group has given her “the opportunity to vent challenges in a very safe place.”
“The feeling is that I’m not in this siloed by myself,” Hom explains. “This has been a fast-paced, changing environment. There are decisions as a CEO in regard to labor, clients and revenue, and the shared experiences have been very helpful. The virtual roundtable has truly been a breath of fresh air, and the Council membership has proven to be, for me, a port in the storm.”
Connell agrees. “My roundtable has always helped me deal with the emotional side of running a business. Now, more than ever, it has helped me navigate the business end of it. Without my roundtable’s support, I would not have been able to sift through all the information we were bombarded with in terms of the Payroll Protection Act and all the other support options that were put in front of business owners. Our experience-sharing has been more influential than any other resource in making the decisions I have made to deal with our current situation.”
The nature of the confidential information shared within VACEOs peer roundtable groups means that trust among members often grows quickly and runs deep.
Melissa Ball, Managing Member at Ball Office Products, has been a member of VACEOs since 2011. She describes her roundtable as “a good, solid group with a high level of comfort with each other.” Where they once met once a month for several hours, they’re now meeting every week for an hour. She says the format of the meeting now is less structured than before, but it’s been an invaluable outlet for her and other members.
On top of managing her family at home, Ball is also managing new vendors, new customer relationships, new ways of handling freight inventory, and much more. “I’ve never worked harder,” she says. “Sometimes you just need a sanity check, you know what I mean? I’m like, ‘How crazy am I really for thinking this or doing this?’ And then I’ll be like, ‘Okay, it’s not just me.’ It might sound flippant, but it’s real. When you’re able to pose a question to somebody and say, ‘Okay, guys, here’s what I’m thinking,’ it’s helpful to hear what other people are doing, especially as it relates to payroll and HR and emotions.”
Many of the CEOs we spoke with reported that at times they’ve had almost too much information coming at them from well-meaning organizations and industry groups – and that it sometimes adds to the chaos.
JJ White, CEO of Dale Carnegie Southeast United States, perhaps most concisely expressed how many CEOs are feeling by saying, “Now, more than ever, is the most critical time in your business to find people who can help you get through this, but more than just get through it – actually create something in your business so that you’ll come out of this better than you’ve ever been before.”
Do you run a small or mid-sized business in Virginia? Don’t face these challenging times alone. Now until September 30, 2020, VACEOs is offering a no-strings, no-cost membership to those who would most benefit from the experience. Learn more at vaceos.org/community-membership
Another month into COVID-19, economic outlook starts to improve, but still a long way to go
Each quarter the Virginia Council of CEOs (VACEOs) and University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business partner to take the pulse of top executives in the region through a comprehensive Virginia CEO Economic Outlook Survey.
For the first time ever, the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business and the Virginia Council of CEOs conducted a follow-up to their quarterly CEO Economic Outlook Survey to determine how CEO sentiment had changed after dealing with COVID-19 for another month.
This survey reports that sixty-four percent of CEOs reported that compared with their expectations for their businesses at the end of March, the last month had been “about as expected.” Nineteen percent reported it to be “much better than expected,” while 17% reported “much worse than expected.”
Overall, expectations in March, at the end of the first quarter of 2020, were the lowest seen in the survey’s 10-year history. Those numbers improved slightly by the end of April.
|Year||Quarter 1||Quarter 2||Quarter 3||Quarter 4|
|2020||-18.73 (historic low)|
|2017||108.97 (historic high)||103.63||99.17||106.3|
“These results confirm what I’ve been hearing from CEOs – that we may have hit bedrock, and many businesses can begin clawing their way out of this hole,” says Scot McRoberts, Executive Director of the Virginia Council of CEOs. “What is unclear is how long their businesses will be at the bottom, and how quickly they can climb out.”
“Although the outlook still is not good, this month produced the largest improvement in the index in the survey’s history,” said Randy Raggio, Associate Dean at the Robins School of Business. Raggio administers the survey and collects the responses each quarter. He adds, “We intend to repeat the survey once a month until this crisis is over to track sentiment and to give Virginia CEOs a voice in the conversation.”
Mickey Quiñones, Dean of the Robins School of Business, says,“As adaptability becomes the name of the game, opportunities to develop new skills and organizational capabilities will become even more important. At the Robins School, we are working with business leaders and organizations to provide these opportunities through our various programs and executive education offerings.”
This month found that executives’ expectations for sales, hiring and employment improved slightly over last month. To summarize, CEOs predictions over the next six months include:
Because of the current crisis, CEOs were asked several questions that related specifically to COVID-19.
While dealing with the crisis, CEOs have identified skill gaps in their organizations. Although dealing with technology and a remote workforce was a concern, creative sales and marketing was the most frequently cited gap.
As one CEO commented, “I wish we had a full-time marketing professional to help us communicate and pivot during this time.” Another noted, “Employees who lack adaptability are standing out.”
When asked what more state and federal governments could do to help small businesses through the crisis:
CEOs offered lots of advice for the government as it decides when to relax/remove restrictions on business operations. CEOs were split on ‘go slow’ versus ‘move fast,’ with some recommending a ‘cost/benefit’ approach. Part of the divergence between ‘go slow’ and ‘move fast’ can be explained by differences in risk by industry and region. CEOs advocating faster movement point out that opening up is not a mandate, but a choice. Those that wish to open, and customers who feel comfortable, should be allowed to conduct business, but those who are more vulnerable should be given the choice to stay home.
READ COMPLETE ECONOMIC SURVEY RESULTS
The Robins School and VACEOs jointly conduct the quarterly survey, which regularly asks about expectations for sales, capital spending and employment, plus other relevant issues, helping Virginia companies anticipate business conditions and plan for growth.
This is the first time it has been done at a time other than end of quarter.
The Robins School adapted the survey from the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of American companies that conducts a similar survey nationally. Randy Raggio, associate dean at the Robins School, administers the survey and collects the responses each quarter. The survey has been administered quarterly since 2010.
The Council continues to expand the survey beyond its members, offering any area business owners whose companies gross at least $1 million in annual revenue the opportunity to participate. If enough businesses participate, the Council will provide survey results by industry. Participation is free, and all participants will receive copies of the survey data.
Business owners and CEOs who would like to participate in the next survey should contact Scot McRoberts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT VIRGINIA COUNCIL OF CEOs
The Virginia Council of CEOs is a nonprofit association whose mission is to connect the CEOs of small and mid-sized businesses for learning and growth. The Council is led by a volunteer board of directors, advisory board and a small staff. Currently, there are more than 200 CEO members, mainly in Richmond and Charlottesville. Learn more at www.vaceos.org.
ABOUT ROBINS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
The Robins School of Business is the only fully accredited, highly-ranked undergraduate business school that also is part of a highly-ranked liberal arts university. U.S. News ranks the Robins School’s MBA program #35 in the country. The school’s executive education division offers open enrollment courses and customized leadership development, training and consulting to area businesses.
This Member Chat episode was recorded on April 23, 2020.
In this VACEOs CEO Series Chat we meet Todd Mawyer, President of TK Promotions. One of the ways Todd and his team have responded to this crisis is to find ways to help others. His company soon partnered with Trolley House Refreshments to assemble and deliver goody bags to front line health workers at a local hospital. Todd is determined to find the positive and “face the storm like a buffalo.” Listen in as Scot McRoberts, Executive Director of VACEOs, checks in with this CEO.
Well. Hey Scot McRoberts with Virginia Council of CEOs here. I’m back for another CEO chat and today I’m talking with Todd Mawyer. Todd is owner and CEO of TK promotions. Thanks for being with me. Todd. Why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us what you do for a living?
Thanks Scot. Appreciate you having me. TK promotions is a promotional products branding firm based in Innsbrook and we are in the reputation business. There are a lot of ways to brand yourselves as a company and we have chosen the promotional products niche as an advertising medium to focus on and really try to focus on helping clients build their brands and their reputations within the marketplace. We have several segments of business. One is the, the government as well as another segment is a higher end market as well as corporate clients that we work with. Both locally and nationally.
Yeah, I’ve seen some of the work you’ve done for JMU, my Alma mater. Always happy to see, see that logo on stuff. And you’ve done some work for Virginia council of CEOs as well. So yeah, I appreciate that. I think it’s pretty critical that you get your brand on a, a lot of stuff and particularly in these days where we’re using a lot of this video and this visual medium I’m going to have to do a better job of getting our logo onto people like you, the CEOs in our community. So I’ll be talking to you about that here. So tough times for most businesses in the marketing space. Is that true?
It’s certainly a tough time. I think in general, certainly in the marketing space as typically marketing is one of the first budgets to be cut when revenue drops. There’s a story I heard recently about how to change how, you know, face different storms and it was basically a cow will run away from a storm and it basically elongates the ability for them to face the storm by running away from it as opposed to a buffalo that runs into a storm. It phases it quicker, but it gets through it faster.
And what we’ve chosen to as a company and what we’ve advised our clients on is facing the storm in a way that, that looks at it, but then it gets through it faster by developing marketing strategies some of which might be digital marketing and different things like that, but some of it might be thinking of your clients in a way and touching them to where they, where they are today and that’s at home and interacting with them through a tangible promotional product.
And so we’ve been educating a lot of clients and having lots of conversations on what that looks like for their specific need. And that’s the kind of the approach that we’ve chosen to do as a company. And invest more in marketing during this time, invest in our clients abilities to do that for themselves.
Well, that’s certainly what we’re doing, that’s facing the storm as the way to go. A lot of our Members I’ve seen them doing some more additional marketing or different kind of marketing or facing new markets. So I think that that’s brilliant. Now one of the things I saw you did was you use your resources, which is the tangible product, promotional product kind of space to provide some support for our healthcare workers. Can you tell me about that project?
Yeah, so I’ve been viewing the critical care employees in the healthcare community just as much as I view soldiers going overseas and being deployed for military service. They’re sacrificing their own lives essentially to care for others.
We work with HCA, which is Chippenham hospital and Johnson Willis Hospital in South side and had thought about how we can provide a positive impact for those on the front lines and devised a goody bag project that we worked with Trolley House Refreshment — Scott Halloran and Cat Carbone at Trolley House — to get a number of their products that they had an inventory some of which might be needed to be moved due to expiration dates and things like that. So we were utilizing some products from them to put in a bag that would give critical care employees, something to kind of keep them moving throughout the day as well as some tangible promotional products. And a thank you message of just a sincere gratitude for their service. And we kitted them all together and took him over there to the hospital and they distributed them to all those folks on the front line and really got some good feedback from them and a lot of appreciation for what we did.
That’s a great thing to do and a great example of just partnering with likeminded business owners. That’s fantastic. Thank you for doing that. Yeah. So life is, is really odd right now. I’m in my living room. You happen to be in your office. Are you working out of your office most of the time or what’s going on?
The first three and a half weeks I spent at home as we watched all this unfold last week I chose to come into the office for a few days and I’ve done that as well this week. Just for a different change of perspective and it’s allowed me to accomplish the same work with the same amount of isolation, but with a brand new hat on. And it’s it’s allowed me to think more creatively. It’s allowed me to have some, probably some extended conversations with, with folks in my quote unquote normal environment at work. And but also balance out with going home. As you can imagine.
You know, working from home is got its own challenges but working at the office when I’m a wife and three kids are at home by themselves also provides its own challenges. So I’ve tried to balance that as best as I know how. And fortunately I have a very strong wife at home that’s been very good with our children.
Awesome. Now how about your staff, your employees? You’re a sales and marketing organization and a lot of what you do is consulting with your clients to help them advance their marketing objectives. What are your people doing? Are they talking to your clients? Are they prospecting or what are they doing?
A lot of what we have been doing the last several weeks Scot, certainly engaging our clients in a new way. Engaging them as human beings and not just engaging them as prospects and clients. And just kind of providing a space that that they can talk openly and just talk with our team about life.
I have had a number of Zoom calls and Microsoft team calls with clients. Just checking in kind of talking about life, their challenges, working from home with kids talking about canceled and or postponed events when they might be happening, if they’re going to be rescheduled. And really just kinda getting a better idea of the landscape of which our clients are faced with now.
Some of them are still unknown. Some of them have become more clear in the last couple of days but really just engaging them and engaging our team. We spend a lot of time devising new marketing strategies internally with, with some accounts. It really tried to clean house as far as clean up the way that we do business, why we do it the way we do and kind of strengthening some of the processes that we’ve been operating under, but making them even more impressive as we go back to market when things turn around and be even better than we work for.
Fantastic. Well, Todd, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. I’ve got some takeaways here about, you know, branding yourself and your organization, and particularly, I admire the way you like the Buffalo facing the storm, getting through it faster, probably coming out stronger on the other side. So, good job. Thanks for your time today.
Absolutely. It’s good to be with you, Scot.