60th Edition — March 29, 2020
If you can’t plant corn, plant beans.Bill Dickinson, Founder and President of Osage Food Products
1. Learning to Pivot
I only know of one person who has turned stone into bread. But I know a second person who has come close.
Bill’s quote above was shared with me in a private email message. I don’t think I’ve ever met an entrepreneur who has created so much value where all stakeholders win big – his employees, his vendors, his customers, and his business. Last year, he made a bold move that will continue the trend of adding value for many others. His creative thinking and tenacity to weather storms of any kind are mind-boggling at times, yet appreciated and admired.
Back to the quote. “If you can’t plant corn, plant beans.” CFO Bookshelf’s interpretation – it’s time to pivot when the situation dictates – and do it fast.
My awareness of pivoting went through the roof when I read the Eric Ries book, The Lean Startup when it came out nearly 10 years ago. It’s one of the best books on startups I’ve ever read. Pivoting is hit hard in the book. If you’ve read it, reread Chapter 8, Pivot (or Persevere).
Haven’t read it? Do it. That’s because many of the businesses we serve will need to adopt a startup mentality as we work our way through this crisis. When this crisis is in our rearview mirror, our new normal will not perfectly reflect the old normal. Innovation should be on all of our minds.
This Week’s Podcast
Mark and Bruce discuss what we need to know about business interruption insurance with industry veteran, Jake Taylor.
2. Clever and Creative Examples of Pivoting
When I hear the word pivot, I immediately think about startups and the ongoing marketplace testing they are doing with their product and customer segments. But pivots are for any business of any age.
We’ve already read about distilleries and small brewers making hand sanitizers and GM and Ford retooling to manufacture ventilators. Additionally, here are two fascinating pivots that small business owners have turned to during this pandemic:
- When a hair salon is forced to shut down, think it’s out of business? Not for Maddisen Maxwell at her Highland Park, N.J. shop. She’s now shooting video tutorials on washing and maintaining curly hair. She’s also providing $50 FaceTime consultations for those needing help while coloring and styling their hair.
- Baldor Specialty Foods has partially switched from supplying restaurants and schools to consumers.
Here’s the ongoing message – be creative.
3. Five Visual Analytics Insights I’ve Gained from Coronavirus Reporting
I’m guessing you’ve seen some really bad charts and graphs over the past few weeks plotting various COVID-19 statistics. Accordingly, I’ve developed new opinions and strengthened others in watching how the media conveys data. Here are some thoughts in no particular order:
- The Return of the Logarithmic Scale – remember those from high school or college algebra? I think the graph by John Burn-Murdoch in the continuing coverage of the coronavirus is nailing it. Too many annotations? Maybe, maybe not, but still an informative viz – LINK.
- No Reds – I’m no longer checking, but I was reading the John Hopkins COVID-19 tracker daily until earlier this week. While I don’t consider myself a visual science expert, the red symbols never did seem right. Even Tableau savant Jeffrey Shaffer calls this red color, “death to us all” and he has a point. Here’s a great redo.
- Choropleth maps are tempting and easy to use (think of each European country being filled with a color to describe the intensity of a measure). Proportional symbols in most cases should be used instead of choropleth maps – LINK.
- Be Careful With Rates – if you have a financial background, you don’t need to hear/read this, but rates are dangerous. Cases per … (fill in your city, county, state, or country) can be misleading. For now, absolute values are better than rates because we just can’t nail down the proper denominator(s) – LINK.
- Small Design Choices Impact Visualization Interpretation – one of the best articles I’ve read this month on coronavirus charts is written by Amanda Makulec. Great read.
4. On Business Books
Business books are probably the last thing on our minds right now. But we still need to keep feeding and growing the mind. Here’s an alternative to reading a business book – read this 20-year-old article, Strategy Under Uncertainty by McKinsey.
On the four levels of uncertainty, I think we’re somewhere between Levels 2 and 3 which include a limited set of future outcomes and a range of possible outcomes. The Level 4 of uncertainty is true ambiguity – I’m just not buying it. No one knows the endpoints of this crisis, but planning and being prepared for 3-5 different possible futures helps to erase true ambiguity.
5. What to Watch While Stuck Inside
Between my wife and I, we own 55 acres of land, so at least we can get outside and enjoy the sunshine when we’re not stuck indoors.
But if you live in the city and are limited to where you can go, what should you watch to keep the mind fresh?
I’ve never watched much TV except for live sports, and that’s even in small gulps. I do watch This is Us with Mrs. G. If you’re a guy and you take your rugged manhood seriously, “Just say no to that show.” Oh, if you think a stoic personality will hide the emotions, good luck on that. Confession – great show, great writing, great cast.
So let’s roll with a recommendation from one of our readers. Long-time and gifted accountant Pam Miller of Pro Athlete gives the movie 1917 a thumbs up. It’s on my list to watch.
Have a suggestion and a brief review of either a great book or movie? Send me a message on LinkedIn, and we’ll tee you up.
More Action Items
Read the March 19 blog post by Steve Blank entitled Action Today for CFO’s. Many of you have already taken action on some of the recommendations made by Steve. It’s still a good read.
Two days later, he published The Virus Survival Strategy for Your Startup, but the wisdom found in this article is for every business.
Thank You For Reading
If you like the content above and the posts at CFO Bookshelf, may I ask a favor? Feel free to share this with other readers along with commenting on your favorite blog posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.
Take care and stay confident and strong this week. Always be learning and growing in times of hardship.