Last week, I had the pleasure of catching up with Mr. Clark Spitzer, Chief Operating Officer of Snavely Forest Products. I always enjoy speaking with Clark since he consistently has a good handle on his sector, and his interest in effective leadership is indicative of how he leads his organization. 

During our conversation, we discussed how Snavely Forest Products was originally unprepared to successfully function in an environment where most of the staff would be remote. You see, a majority of the business is centered around direct customer contact, warehousing operations, trucking and deliveries, and operations. It is a very hands-on organization and is far from being a remote environment. 

During the recent COVID-19 crisis, however, Clark did not believe in remaining idle, and would not allow the possible roadblocks associated with the pandemic to be a hinderance to his organization’s operation. He told me he is utilizing this time to prepare for what he considers to be “accelerating out of the corner.” 

Now, I have watched a few NASCAR races and have even had the pleasure of attending the first Brickyard in Indianapolis many years ago, however, by no means am I an avid NASCAR fan. Full disclosure, I had no idea what Clark was talking about. 

While it sounded like a great strategy – like I said, Clark is always thinking about strategy – I needed more information. Intrigued by his outlook during such an unprecedented time, I did some research. After spending what seemed to be hours reading about kinetic energy, turning point, gear change area, neutral balance, apex comma, traction circle, etc., I finally figured it out what Clark was talking about when he said “accelerating out of the corner.” Believe it or not, this concept in racing is not highly technical, but it is extremely effective. 

Every racecar driver knows that you slow down on the corner of the racetrack. That being said, the sooner you begin accelerating out of a corner, the faster you go down the following straightaway. Drivers focus on getting back on the throttle as soon as possible exiting corners. It must happen at the right time. It could mean the difference between moving ahead or falling behind.

Organizations are currently experiencing “the corner.” The COVID-19 crisis has placed every organization, in every sector, at the corner of the racetrack. We are experiencing a time when business has slowed to prepare for the straightaway. It is what an organization does at this point, like a racecar navigating the corner, that will dictate the outcome.  

Organizations who go too fast through the corner may find themselves “hitting the wall.” On the contrary, organizations who come out of the corner too slow will never get to a desirable speed on the straightaway and be left in the dust. It is all about timing. In fact, it is about reimagining the future of the straightaway! It is about being proactive rather than reactive to the end of this crisis. The goal is to come back stronger than before.  

Clark is preparing his organization for the straightaway. And while I do not have time to review all of his strategies in this blog, I have no doubt his organization will hit the gas at the right time, accelerate out of the corner, and be well on their way to continued success.

Like Clark, there are several strategies organizations are using while preparing to accelerate out of the corner:

  • Develop initiatives that will quickly recover the necessary revenue to remain competitive. The outcome could be new markets, new products, or a combination of the two. Investigate now what can possibly be!
  • Maintain the current business – or as much as you can. As an organization navigates any crisis, one of the main objectives should be to retain current customers. Take care of the partnerships developed. As you approach your straightaway, you want these customers to be with you for the long haul – and you want to be there for them, as well.
  • Analyze human capital. During a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, employees lose their jobs. Unfortunately, organizations sometimes cut what they really need. The goal is to evaluate the organization’s human capital and keep what you need. You will need your best talent as you accelerate out of the corner. Without these key employees, you may just hit the wall, or fall behind the pack. It may hurt right now to have human capital on payroll, however, if you let these people go, you may find yourself struggling down the road to effectively have them replaced. 
  • Incorporate the technologies that have become essential. Organizations are utilizing more technology now than ever to survive the crisis. Learn from this technology. Determine how it can benefit your organization, make you more competitive, and maximize your operational and market efficiencies.  

Organizations worldwide are navigating unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19. However, at some point, this crisis will end. Is your organization preparing for that time? Are you ready to accelerate out of the corner?