In Crisis, Lean on Values, Leadership, and Your "Why"
It's your job to lead your business during this extremely challenging time.
Today, I want you to hear from Jared Auerbach. Jared is the owner of Red's Best, a seafood distribution company in Boston--and a friend. His leadership of Red’s Best during the coronavirus outbreak has been nothing short of remarkable.
Why does this matter? Because you need to know that your business is not alone in its hardships. Because necessity is the mother of invention. Because Jared sums up all the challenges and potential of this moment better than I could.
How are you feeling with everything going on in the world right now?
My emotional state has changed drastically every hour; back and forth, in all directions, over the last week.
How are you framing your response to the coronavirus outbreak?
We are lucky to have a very strong organization. You said this doesn’t need to be a promotion for EOS, but honestly, I do credit EOS a great deal for that. We have well-defined core values and a tough company, and we’re circling the wagons around those things.
The “why” of Red’s Best is ultimately to feed people. That’s never been more apparent to me than right now. As long as our fisherman can go out and we can keep our facilities open, we’ll be able to keep feeding people right from the ocean.
What is your business doing to adapt to the current climate?
We’re approaching our shifts on a few different fronts. First, we need to recognize where our business is being affected. Luckily, we have an intentionally diverse range of sales and distribution channels. A portion of our business was providing food to colleges and universities. Since schools have closed, that revenue is gone.
So we need to adapt and adjust. The current climate has created a new opportunity for us. We have the chance to pivot into the retail market, because people are staying home and buying more groceries than ever. So we’ve made inroads with local distributors to build up that part of the business.
Second, we’re creating contingency plans and adopting new practices to prepare for shifts in the business and to keep everyone healthy. We implemented even more stringent standards in our facilities. We have multiple facilities, and if one becomes contaminated because of coronavirus exposure, we don’t want to have to shut all the facilities down.
Third, we’re looking at our cash reserves and adjusting our budgets and projections accordingly. We need to know exactly what it will take to keep this business alive. I’m also reviewing my insurance policies closely and getting familiar with all avenues of government assistance.
What are you learning right now that’s helping you?
This situation has helped me dramatically improve my leadership skills. I’ve learned how crucial trust is within teams, especially in moments of crisis.
I’ve also seen the value of having contingencies and backup plans. Entrepreneurs tend to put off creating that stuff in their business, but it’s worth the effort to be prepared in a situation like this one. I wasn’t 100% where I wanted to be with my contingencies, but at least I had a headstart with planning.
And I’ve learned that our “why” for doing business is more important than ever. We feed people, and that matters. If all I wanted to do was make money, I could have done it in an easier way. I care about the supply chain that I represent, and that’s fueling my motivation.
Any final thoughts?
Just taking things as they come, day by day. Red’s Best is here for a reason, and I’m not going down without a fight.
We spoke with Jared on Sunday, 3/15. Later that evening, Massachusetts ordered all restaurants to switch to takeout/delivery only, and Red’s Best lost a major revenue stream. Since then, Jared has had to make some difficult decisions, but his leadership continues to remain strong.
It would be nice if this was the story of a leader who did all the right things and was able to shield his business from economic fallout. But right now, all of us are subject to factors well beyond our control—even the smartest and most resilient among us.
The main thing I take away from Jared’s situation (still evolving, just like everyone else’s) is his advocacy on behalf of his business. When you lead a company, it’s your job to represent the organization to the best of your ability. When this outbreak has stabilized, you want to know that you’ve done everything you could to keep your business still standing.
We asked Jared how he was maintaining his composure right now. He said two things. First: “I’m living moment to moment. You caught me in a pretty good one.” And second: “I’m the leader of Red’s Best. It’s my responsibility to lead.”
I’m inspired by Jared’s attitude—and by the many other clients and colleagues I’ve spoken to in the last few days. This community represents the best of what business and entrepreneurship can be. I’m so grateful to be part of it.
As always, please reach out if there’s anything your business needs right now. We will do whatever we can to help.
For more help navigating the coronavirus outbreak, visit our resource and information center.