20 is the new 10

In this new era of COVID-19, in mere months, the world and business have radically changed — it’s not for the better, but there are a few exceptions. Immediately after the pandemic surfaced, every safety proclamation and admonishment on how to fight this dreaded virus started with washing your hands while counting to 20. Pre-coronavirus, the magic number for most everything was 10, as in counting to 10 before saying something you might regret, or holding your temper for 10 seconds. Another was avoiding rash decisions before reaching the 10 count.

But that was then and this is now. Our new “protracted” benchmark number also applies to business. The mantra espoused by Facebook has been, “Move fast and break things.” It’s clear that this motto has worked for its CEO Mark Zuckerberg. But in the new epoch, few companies can do that because it’s not economically prudent to be this reckless. Since this seemingly at times apocalyptic pandemic began, business resources have been radically reduced, starting with the lifeblood availability of capital. Few companies have been spared having their balance sheet significantly damaged as businesses, and the world, shut down.

The Humpty Dumpty effect, with all the King’s men not being able to put something that has gone awry back together again, is a lesson that cannot be ignored with this current scarcity of cash. Instead, businesses must adopt the Hansel and Gretel method of using breadcrumbs to find a path back home or, in this case, return to basics. Previously, in a booming economy, companies could afford to take higher risks on the future; it was not a big deal to make a bet and fall significantly short of the goal or even miss it entirely. Other than moonshot-type strategies, companies must heed this symbolic new doubling of the traditional count to work through the dramatic and devastating recessionary event triggered by the virus. Economists can’t agree if it will be a “V,” “U,” or “W” shaped recession, but the reality is it will last at least many more months and, more likely, years.

The benefits of taking extra time include a more thoughtful, fact-based approach that provides for increased collaboration and pre-stress testing on how to do just about everything from launching a new product to reorganizing a management structure and anything in between. It is a necessity to take more time now more than ever as we count to 20 instead of 10 to move forward, as there is little margin for error today. This does not mean analysis paralysis, but instead, extra steps and more intense deliberation must proceed on an agreed-upon and prescribed timetable to reach stated goals and objectives.

In these challenging times, companies must be circumspect and adapt the credo of master carpenters: always measure twice, but only cut once. Of course, there must be endurable provisions for missteps that are factored into all budget calculations.

We can’t forget that washing our hands requires an extended 20 seconds to ensure physical health. Similarly, each business must take more time to thoroughly ruminate future undertakings as a prerequisite for its long-term economic health.

Visit Michael Feuer’s website www.TipsFromTheTop.info to learn more about his columns, watch videos and purchase his books, “The Benevolent Dictator” and “Tips From The Top.”