By Dave Marquard, WEMCO Tech Chair
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”
----- ALBERT EINSTEIN, DECEMBER 19,1917
Much has changed over the past century since Einstein made this observation. But one fact has not changed: how well you define a problem determines how well you solve it.
I have had the distinct honor and privilege of writing this column for several years now and none of them have been more important to me than this one. This is because none of us have ever faced a personal and business crisis in our lifetimes like COVID-19. I was a cop in Ohio before I started my businesses and I thought I had seen everything too horrible to mention. But this disease is different. It has touched the lives and businesses of everyone on this planet in a way that challenges and frightens on a scale I never imagined possible.
So how do we best manage our welding businesses in the COVID-19 era? It’s tricky because the virus is new and we have to make decisions in such a potentially lethal environment. Using today’s Information technology (IT) to make wise decisions is an obvious “Go To” strategy to employ. IT has enabled the widespread availability of information for allowing better treatment, outcomes, and prevention. However, the same IT has caused government, business, and family leaders to make decisions sometimes based on incomplete or misleading data.
For example, I live in Florida where our company headquarters is located. An error by the Florida Department of Health produced a COVID-19 positivity rate for children of almost one-third, an absolutely stunning figure that played into the debate of whether schools should reopen.
Then the next Florida weekly bulletin on children and COVID-19 showed the rate had dropped to 13.4%
Who do you believe? How can a number change so dramatically? What’s trustworthy and what is not?
Here is what the pandemic has taught me and reinforced in my thinking:
1-Trustworthy information is more valuable than any particular skill set.
2-Deal with the problem and opportunity you have, not the problem and opportunity you wish you had.
3-We learn a lot from each other. Bounce ideas off people you know and respect. You are not alone in this battle.
Take a page from Mr. Einstein’s book. Take the time to define the problems all around you. Problems that are well defined are more than half solved. Remember, IT can generate good or misleading data. It is up to you to make the best decisions based on the data you most trust.
Define your objectives, which must include:
A. Survival #1. From a purely business viewpoint, what do you most urgently need to do to ensure your business survives? Remember, if the business doesn’t survive, well…let’s think positively and not go there.
B. After setting a roadmap for business survival, what resources will you most need? For sure you will need abundant human and financial resources to come out of the crisis. But plan not just to survive. Plan to thrive and have on hand everything you need to do so: the right people, the right financial resources, the right workplace.
C. Re-invent yourself and your business. An example of a bad or poor assumption would be to assume everything is going back to whatever it was pre-pandemic. Reality is that your business is much more likely to be vastly different, and the pandemic is likely to last much longer than you would wish. Remember, like problems and opportunities, reality is what you have, not what you wish you had. Make the adjustments trustworthy IT data tells you to make. Above all, trust your gut feel while factoring in all the reliable data you can. You have been doing that all of your business life or you would not have progressed as far as you already have.
And while it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the staggering issues caused by COVID-19, now would be a good time to remember another often cited Einstein quotation: “In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.”
If you wish to share your thoughts or feedback, please
e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.