What to Do While Quarantined

Sometimes things don’t go the way you plan. I had all these marketing plans prepared to work with my dealers during this quarter. Then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. As they say on the internet, “Well, that escalated quickly!” Most of my dealer base shut down. Some are still operating, mostly the ones who have contracts with municipal emergency services. Obviously, I’m there to support them as best I’m able, for as long as I’m able to.

As I’ve joked with my dealers, the one upside to all our national retailers being locked down is that if you need something, our warehouse is shipping SAME DAY!

That said, I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands. You probably do too. Let’s be honest; you can only spend so much of your day looking at your bank balance and sharing darkly humorous apocalypse memes on social media. Indeed, I’m working on a bunch of operational projects that I’ve been putting off for a long time.

I talk a lot about how the day-to-day is summed up by the dynamic tension between deciding between what’s urgent and what’s important. When you’re busy, it’s often the case that important tasks get demoted on the to-do list in favor of urgent ones. When you’re busy, you certainly have the luxury of being able to focus on the immediate and allow the important to sit on the back burner for a while.

Guess what? Suddenly my day has a lot fewer urgent things to deal with.

If you find yourself right now, like me, with time on your hands, it’s useful to remind yourself of the things you can’t control, versus the things you can, and devote some time and energy to looking after the latter. I haven’t thrown an aphorism into this editorial yet, so here you go — 19th Century steel magnate Charles Schwab famously said: “The best place to succeed is where you are, with what you’ve got.”

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If you’re looking for things to work on while you wait, here are some suggestions.

If you’re like me, you probably talk up the importance of online training, but slack on it yourself. Whether you’re a general manager ensuring your team is current on their training, or like me, a vendor rep who talks to his dealers about keeping their teams up to date, somehow sitting down to a webinar ourselves doesn’t happen as much as it should. Well, now’s the time.

Take a look at your manual of standards and best practices. Is it time to update it? It probably is. At the same time, give some honest thought to how hard your team adheres to the best practices you have in place. While you’re updating your standards and best practices, commit to improving your team’s overall compliance with them. Ideally, there won’t be too vast a gulf between theory and practice. After all, best practices are things that you should be doing all the time, not just when you need to.

Tangential to your best practices, evaluate your business processes, both operational and back-office. Everything that goes on in your company should, ideally, be done the same way, every time. The operational side is obvious. As it was explained to me long ago, the only thing “custom” about “custom install” should be the impression the client has that their project is unique. In reality, laying out every job according to standard templates means higher efficiency and better use of your resources.

Downtime is an opportunity to identify areas of improvement and make changes if you need to. If you take the time to work on them now, you’ll be better off later. And those quarterly marketing programs I had ready to roll out? Hopefully, my dealers and I will be able to execute them next quarter.

Or maybe the quarter after that?