Ben Holliday is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in San Antonio and president of Holliday Energy Law Group, which provides legal services in the oil and gas industry, and CEO of DocuChaser, which provides custom document review and data verification solutions. As he is an entrepreneur who has experienced and survived previous business upheavals, we asked Ben about his strategy for finding opportunity in the Covid-19 crisis. Here's what he shared:
Take yourself back to that moment of truth--several weeks ago--to the instant when you realized that your world had fundamentally shifted. Now freeze frame. In that moment, as you were struggling to synthesize what just happened, something else occurred. The seed of opportunity germinated. Your opportunity set exponentially expanded.
The million-dollar question is whether you can take a step back, take a breath, and create the conditions that will allow you to see and nurture those green shoots of opportunity emerging from the fertile soil of change.
This isn't about taking a Pollyanna view of the Covid-19 crisis. More than a million people are sick; tens of thousands have died and many more will meet that same terrible fate. It's tragedy layered upon tragedy. And, it hurts to lose your job, or to watch the business you invested so much of yourself and your savings into suddenly buckle due to forces beyond your control. No one is questioning that.
Let's acknowledge that pain, that loss, and that frustration. And then let's set it aside and face this new reality with clear eyes. And let's get to work.
My personal experience
This is not a theoretical exercise for me. In 1996, 2001, 2009, and now 2020, world-shifting situations led to changes in my growth as a person. It took several iterations for me to realize how, on a subconscious level, I was converting the energy from a seemingly undesirable situation to propel myself into new directions. To find opportunity in crisis.
While no one loves to curse the winds of fortune more than I, thankfully just below the surface of that voiced frustration has always been an intense focus on striking back against the blows of fate by seizing the sudden and fleeting advantages that upheaval brings.
Covid-19 is presenting us with a moment of truth. As business owners, we have no choice but to steel ourselves to this new reality. This thing, this change, has happened. We decide from here what we will make of it.
What we do and how we react will set the course for the rest of our careers. I'm no exception. My primary industry--oil and gas--has experienced a dramatic plunge into a price environment not experienced in decades.
How I intend to move forward, based on my experience, can be summed up in five simple steps.
Step 1: Face reality
It doesn't matter how you feel about it--dramatic change has occurred. You didn't get a say in it, but you do get a decisive vote in how you face it down going forward. Take a moment to give your circumstances a grand cussing of historic proportions. Then it's chin up, chest out and eyes forward. The sooner you move past emotion and objectively face your new reality, the sooner you begin to mobilize and get on with the difficult task of rebuilding.
Step 2: Determine where you are
It doesn't matter where you want to go if you don't know where you are in relation to the desired end state. Before moving forward, it's imperative to assess your capabilities and available resources. Gather your team--C-suite, management team, direct reports, vendors, spouse or partner. Take stock of the present situation and determine your true core competencies. Only when you understand on a deep level what it is that you truly offer--as opposed to the way in which you've been delivering it--can you decide how to leverage those resources in this new environment.
It's time to evaluate resources, including obvious things such as cash, line of credit, facilities and manufacturing competencies. Also, think deeply about the people side of the equation: Your network, strategic client, and vendor relationships.
Step 3: Determine where you could go (parse your opportunity set)
Where is the greatest need right now? Examine all possibilities. Think big--at this stage, no idea is too crazy. Follow the creative process: Even "crazy" ideas can reveal possibilities that you wouldn't have considered otherwise. Gather your trusted network to brainstorm. Capture all ideas, and separate them out later. Maybe even laugh about a few. Develop a clear understanding of what is possible, so that you can make a calculated decision on how best to move forward.
Step 4: Determine where you should go
You've cussed and discussed, identified core competencies and capabilities, mapped resources and identified your opportunity set. Now imagine a Venn diagram and overlay your core competencies, resources, and opportunity set to determine where you best align with those opportunities.
If your service or product is in high demand, press that advantage. Perhaps what you bring to the table is no longer in demand. What are the two or three opportunities that best align your capabilities with current need? How can you modify what you offer to meet that need? Who or what is critical to opening that opportunity for you?
Step 5: Go!
To paraphrase George S. Patton, a good plan executed now is better than a perfect plan next week. Take action. Get started. Adjust as you go and as new information or opportunities become available. But don't let this opportunity pass you by.
Why I'm hopeful
It's been amazing to watch entrepreneurs in action during this crisis. Food distributors seemingly crushed by restaurant shutdowns are discovering that their core competence is logistics. Yesterday, they delivered produce; today, they've retooled to source and deliver life-saving equipment. "Non-essential" health care providers such as dentists are manufacturing NV95-equivalent protection equipment with 3-D printers. Other inspiring examples abound.
Entrepreneurs see opportunity in crisis. While change may have destroyed business models, that same creative destruction has opened up new opportunities that may not have previously been recognized, or perhaps not even existed.
As entrepreneurs, our fight is not with the coronavirus itself. Our fight is to bolster communities. Our ability to maintain and rebuild the economic engine is a force multiplier to the health care community and the nation at large.
When we act upon opportunities in crisis, we lift the morale and well-being of entire communities. Let us not allow this opportunity to slip between our fingers.