My column for the next issue of the Wholesaler was complete and as they say “in the can” when the coronavirus hit. I elected to hit pause and regroup as the COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to reflect on leadership.
While as of this writing we are still in the throes of this pandemic, I have observed leaders either underreact or overreact or in the case of true leaders: stand and deliver! Analogous to our childhood parables when we learned the bed was either too hard, too soft, or just right.
I’ve observed great leadership in our P.V.F. industry during this crisis. Afterall ours is an industry that built this great nation and subsequently defended this great nation. The leadership I have observed, in this difficult time, wasn’t our industry following the pre-prepared pandemic SOP manual for who prepares for a black swan event? By its very nature, a black swan event is something that cannot be anticipated. Rather our industry leadership is responding by their own leadership intuition. Then again are we not the industry that survived two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, 12 recessions and the Great Depression.
Of more recent history did we not navigate a number of doomsday, end of the world scenarios: Y2K (2000), 9/11 (2001), Anthrax (2001), West Nile virus (2002), SARS (2003), Bird Flu (2005), E. coli virus (2006), Swine Flu (2009), Maya End of the World (2012), Ebola (2014), Disney Measles (2015), Zika virus (2016)…well, you get the picture. I certainly don’t fault China for this virus or its spread, but I do fault them for delayed disclosure and dubious data both of which are the hallmarks of a communist country.
If you can jog your memory back to your college Greek mythology course, and yes for some of you, myself included, that’s a long, long, time ago, the Phoenix was a bird that reincarnated from the ashes to be reborn every day with the Phoenix being a mythological metaphor for the Sun. Our Sun, our industry, our country, will indeed rise again as Abraham Lincoln offered this too shall pass. Our industry is categorized as an “essential industry.” I like working in an essential industry. I like that the nation, and my neighborhood, and my family know that I work in an essential industry. Admittedly it’s certainly not business as usual but commerce goes on and we’re writing orders.
For me, it continues to be a major source of frustration to observe the acrimony in the beltway. Unfortunately, even a pandemic can’t encourage bipartisanship. I do applaud the administrations $2 trillion-dollar stimulus package at just the right time. Even more so, I applaud their confidence to point out that we must make certain the cure isn’t worse than the disease as the economy must function. As we are a country built to work people must function. I will spare you the data dump on this pandemic compared to others. However, I must mention my growing disdain for the media who is hell-bent on presenting this in the most negative light. Every morning one turns on the TV to the daily death scoreboard. It’s as if we invented a new sport. Enough already…and by the way I know how to wash my hands…I got it. While not my expertise I have a theory: as we neared the end of the first two weeks of shelter in place many began to ignore the warning and even socially gathered. Think for a moment if you worked out religiously for two weeks in a row and experienced no health improvement. Not only no health improvement but you actually gained weight. I suspected many would conclude what the hell and tap out. While the nation by and large was honoring the shelter all we were being told each and every day after day after day that things were getting worse, I suspect many perhaps tapped out. Perhaps they concluded: if it’s the end of the world oh well. Even when the administration attempts to offer some encouragement in the daily press briefings all it takes is the media assault, yes assault, of any modicum of good news to discourage us again and again and again. Inform us yes…educate us yes…be accurate yes…but to scare a nation at every opportunity shame on you.
While all of us are affected by this pandemic in the form of reduced business activity, fearful families, destroyed 401k balances (temporarily), that pales by comparison to those that have lost lives and loved ones. Really, who deserves a pandemic? While those capable experts in the medical field work hard to preserve your physical health the capable and compassionate leadership I have seen in our industry recognizes the importance of your financial health as well.
Let me conclude with the title of this article: we will come out of this stronger. We now have observed firsthand the cautions that many of us have proffered for years. That is the awareness that in offshoring so much it renders our entire country and society vulnerable. I have maintained from numerous podiums and articles that we need to maintain our industrial skills. Welders, machinists, and tradesmen are the modern-day butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. For example, the nation’s defense is one of our government’s primary responsibilities one can’t defend their nation without a military. You can’t have a military without an arsenal. And you can’t have an arsenal without an industrial sector to manufacture the arsenal. Is it a wise strategy to offshore the manufacture of your weapons to your potential enemies, which in the case of America is many.
What we learned in this pandemic is that according to a U.S. Department of Commerce study 97 percent of all antibiotics in the United States come from China! In addition, 80 percent of our pharmaceuticals or at least the components that make the pharmaceuticals come from China. What if??? …China had the antidote for COVID-19 and chose not to share it. Of course, we dare call it a conspiracy.
One of the few goods to come out of this medical and economical tragedy is that you will see a rush to reshoring, and elevated patriotism and few industries will benefit more than ours. In closing my prayers and best wishes are with the families for whom this virus has hit closer to home. Stay strong and God Bless.
“If this country is ever demoralized, it will come from trying to live without work.” — Abraham Lincoln