This morning I was scrolling through a folder of unfinished blog posts. I came across the following story that I wrote on the morning of March 16th, which for much of America was the first day of the lockdown/shelter-at-home/house arrest era. I found the story particularly interesting because it was written at what I would now consider the end of pre-covid normalcy. And it was interesting to look back at my mindset as we entered the great unknown.
The event referenced occurred on Thursday, March 12th, just prior to catching a redeye flight home. Which would be the last time I flew for 6 months. I expect the drop in redeye flights has hurt Visine sales.
Thursday night I grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant in Las Vegas. I was by myself, so I sat at the bar and ordered my food and drink. I had a burger and tots, like Napoleon Dynamite.
The guy beside me and I started talking. We were both in Vegas for CONEXPO/CON-AGG, the enormous construction industry trade show. I told him I owned an advertising and idea agency that worked with the trade show. He told me he owned a mine in Texas, between Dallas and Houston. Which means his business mined the earth. And mine mined the mind. (Which I think is what the seagulls were saying in Finding Nemo.)
We discussed then newly emerging and unfolding challenges of COVID-19, and what it meant for our businesses. I told him that it would have very little if any impact on our ability to operate. (Meaning our ability to operate as a business. We still wouldn’t be any good at surgery.)
We transition fluidly between working in our offices in Milwaukee and Columbus, to working from home or wherever our work-travel takes us. As long as we have a computer and an internet connection we are good to go.
Tex, my bar-mate, had a pained expression on his face when I finished my evaluation of our business. Then he replied, ‘Until I can figure out how to run a backhoe, dozer and dump truck remotely I need my people on site.’
This simple barstool conversation in Las Vegas made me extremely thankful for being in the business I am in. I am thankful that when we planned the launch of The Weaponry we put systems and technology in place that would allow for maximum operational flexibility. It also helped that we didn’t include backhoes, dozers or dump trucks into our operating system.
On Sunday I sent a note to the 10 core members of our team telling them that we would transition to remote work as our standard until further notice. I am sure the current situation will pass, and we will get back to standard operating procedures. But I am not sure how organizations can declare that a remote arrangement is going to last for the next 2, 3, or 4 weeks. The only thing certain right now is the uncertainty of the timeline.
Right now we have plenty of work to do. We have 3 or 4 major presentations this week. The work needs to be done, because it is vital to our clients’ long term plans. The release dates may shift. But we are marching on. Because on the other side of the unknown we know we need to keep moving forward with our plans for business and life. We will present our work via Zoom video conference. Which we have used for presentations several times per week since our founding. Because our clients are as far away as California, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.
We have also seen some work quickly evaporate thanks to the current climate. We have had a few events canceled. Which means that film and photo shoots tied to those events have been canceled or postponed. Those things may never be rescheduled.
Like so many businesses, we are adjusting to a new normal. For our team, it is almost as simple as a Mr. Rogers wardrobe change when he enters or leaves the set of the show. We put on a sweater, change our footwear and we are ready to work in a new location. I expect we are luckier than most as we head into the new unknown.
Things will be abnormal for a while.
(this is where my draft stopped)
The flexibility we built into the operation of The Weaponry meant that we didn’t and haven’t missed a beat during the new normal. Other companies around the world have adopted many of the same technologies and approaches we baked in from the beginning. Our comfort with the uncertainty of the future has been key to our ongoing success. Seven months later we still don’t know if we are closer to the beginning or the end. But we are ready for whatever comes next. I hope you are too.