“Pivot Plan”

Fourteen inches of paperwork for Superstorm Sandy SBA application


For some, the word is challenging and exciting.

For most, it may instill fear, worry, and loathing.  The condition of “repetition compulsion” causes many to stay the course, “status quo” – even though it may not be the best possible option, personally or in business.

Even in the best of times, most businesses will experience, on average, five major changes over three years.  Some are sparked internally, others are economic and now, we see the effects of a global crisis.   Business leaders that are open to change AND can navigate and mitigate those changes and their effects, confidently leading their organization and teams, will be the most successful.

The goal of this new program “Pivot Plan for Profit” is to help business leaders overcome the inherent barriers that change brings to any organization, big or small.  Using the right tools and fostering a company culture of willingness, acceptance, and recognition of accomplishment, companies can increase their profitability and keep employees productive, engaged, and above all, happy.

The Perception of Change

When I think about change and how people perceive change, I recall a quote attributed to George Berard Shaw – “Those who can’t change their minds, can’t change anything.”  Our minds can be the beat and the worst limit to what we can accomplish.  It is within our minds that limits and doubts begin to take root. Toddlers are fearless, that is until they start to hear “No, don’t do that” or “Stop! You’ll get hurt”.  Imprinting these thoughts in young minds starts a cycle of self-imposed limits.  In business, when these limiting beliefs start to overwhelm, the excitement of forward-thinking and progress causes leaders to stagnate and the culture within a business or organization can start to decline.

Change, therefore, is both the biggest challenge and the biggest threat to a mindset, a culture.  Change often implies a loss of comfort – “I know what is expected, I know what I have to do, I know what the outcome will be”.  To impart change, a leader introduces shifts that may be perceived as positive or negative by the team – it is up to that leader to make the transition a positive one.

Personal expectations, job-related expectations, leadership expectations all allow us to create a plan for what we will do, how we conduct ourselves, the level of productivity we achieve, and our perception of self meeting those expectations.  And we take comfort in knowing what the outcomes will be – personal growth, accomplished chores, a paycheck, a successful company – and all the “perks” that any of those outcomes bring.  Pressure, discomfort, disappointment or ease, comfort, and pleasure – it all depends on approach and analysis.  Either way, it’s a lot of work.

So why would we even want to consider “change”?

For Your Consideration

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as great & sudden change” – Mary Shelley

We had been hearing about a coming storm all week and we were also gearing up for one of the biggest events we were managing all year.  My partner and I were busy with orders, design plans, and more; our entire staff was in all week and extremely busy.  The meteorologists on both television and radio were talking up a hurricane that was coming up the East Coast – “the storm of the century”, “a massive and destructive storm”, and with all their forecasts being correct, “a superstorm”.  With each passing day, the predictions for landfall were becoming closer and closer and the level of destruction was increasing as well.

But those same meteorologists were wrong in the past, so we crossed our fingers and continued to work.  The day before our big event, my 79-year-old mother was rushed to the Emergency Room.  I directed most of the operations in our company but I dropped everything and spent the day in the ER in Astoria speaking with doctors and nurses who were trying to determine what my mother was suffering from and how to treat her.  My partner and staff handled everything in my absence but this was one of the only times I had to “step away” at crunch time.

The event went off the next day almost without a hitch.  In the end, the party was a success, our clients were thrilled and everyone had a great time.  My lead manager spent the day listening to the weather forecasts – he moved everything lying low in the store, up to the tables and workbenches; he secured items that he thought would move; he got sandbags and positioned them at the front door.  We kept the store closed and all of staff home on the day of the storm.  This was a bad one and the forecasts were right.  Mary Shelley was right – “great and sudden” came in the form of Superstorm Sandy.

Coney Island Creek swelled to the north, swept over its banks and began to flood the streets.  As we sat home, we watched through our security cameras as water flooded down the streets – two feet high running toward the ocean.  A short time later, the storm surge brought the Atlantic Ocean to our doorstep and through the front door, through the store, filling it up to five and a half feet throughout.  It took everything with it, coming in quickly and ebbing just as quickly. 

And the whiplash was palpable.

The damage? Unconscionable.

Left In Its Wake

The best way to describe the destruction?  Imagine taking a store, putting it into a gigantic washing machine where it would be agitated to a massive degree.  In other words, a mess.

Things were turned upside down, destroyed, toppled – everything soaked and caked with mud.  Our commercial refrigerator somehow flipped over, taking out cabinets, the stove hood, and part of a shelf. Every ounce of inventory, every piece of machinery, displays, counters – all destroyed.  Twenty-years we had spent building our client base, adding inventory, buying equipment that made our work more efficient when we had the extra money now, all were just piles and piles of garbage. In our marketing, we promoted ourselves with our name “TFL Party Planners – ‘party” is our middle name.  But the truth was, we spent twenty years plus planning – PLANNING. Yet we had no plan for this – the cleanup, the financing, the staff, the going forward.  The people who planned thousands of events didn’t focus, didn’t plan for a disaster.  And this was one that came big time!

But there was light at the end of the tunnel.  Someone walking down the block said, “FEMA is in the parking lot at the ballpark – go there, they’ll help you”.  So we walked over with two other business owners from our block.  Indeed, there were the FEMA trucks – it immediately became surreal.  The trailers we had seen on the news during so many other disasters around the country were right in front of us and we were waiting on line to see an advisor.  They would have answers for us and they would provide help.

So an hour or two in the lot, a simple application, some records, and the cavalry in the form of a grant or loan would be on its way and help us get back to normal. As long as we were willing to give the SBA everything they asked for, we would definitely “get something” as the advisor said.  One of the other business owners that had gone over with us told us flat-out that he was not giving them records – he didn’t have them so he was done. We decided we would do what they asked as we hoped for a quick resolution to our plea.  It seemed like an easy task…

Mountains and Time

Now, it is almost eight years later and we find ourselves in a similar situation.  Superstorm Sandy affected a majority of the Eastern Seaboard; COVID-19 has affected the entire planet.  After all was said and done, the paperwork we had to file for a two-owner, eight staff member, mini-micro business in 2012, measured almost fourteen inches high.  Our application process started in November 2012 and between additional requests, reviews, more background information, denials, and extensions, ran through May 2014.   I can tell you through experience that whether it is a mountain of paperwork or this simple process that is promised during the COVID-19 crisis, dealing with your day-to-day in business, your personal lives and every “fire” that crops up is not easy especially if your situation has been CHANGED.

The Payroll Protection Program, in all its times being funded, solves part of a larger problem.  Landlords’ benevolence may have deferred rent due and as banks and other lending institutions allow for “one-time” no fee lapses on credit cards and bank loans.  Other parts of each business need attention and funding as well.  SBA loans can help but throwing money at things doesn’t solve inherent problems.  By taking time to review operations, processes for cultivating leads and prospecting customers, getting products and services to market and other opportunities for sales growth, leaders can begin to formulate a “Pivot Plan for Profit” – where your Plan B runs con-currently, ready in the wings, or set to go when needed.  Growth is around the corner with planning – understanding and having a good relationship with all aspects of finance and a healthy, upbeat culture focused on the “WE” can move an obstacle in our way.

“Pivot Plan for Profit” is a program for business and organizational leaders.  This program focuses on having an active “Plan B” to your existing business model – how to plan it, criteria for enacting that plan, how to implement it, training for staff, and more. Individual coaching programs are available (limited spaces); group coaching program begins May 4, 2020, and a self-guided learning course will be available online beginning May 11, 2020.  Please visit janeparmel.com to receive more information. 

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