Elizabeth Wilder, President of Anthony Wilder Design/Build, Inc. talks about her experiences with managing her business and guiding her team through the ongoing current pandemic crisis. She discusses what it means to be a leader during these uncertain times and what her team has done to keep their focus on their "North Star".
Episode with guest: Elizabeth Wilder
President of Anthony Wilder Design/Build, Inc.
(This episode was recorded in April of 2020.)
Key Episode Take-Aways:
1.Create your own North Star. (click to jump to this topic below) We have to do all the things to stay safe because we created something that we call our North Star. This crisis is completely different in that the element of potentially losing people and the need to work safely makes it so different. You have some of the same lessons learned and tips and techniques, and your scoreboard and all the things we've learned from Great Game, but that element of making sure that you remind yourself every day of what that North Star is and what you’re working towards.
2. Get back to basics - teach the numbers. (click to jump to this topic below) Rich: When we're seeing some downtime for SRC as well because our schedules are short, is that we're doubling down on that training and making sure that group has the right kind of training now.
Liz: We did a survey, it was about a year ago, and in the response from the survey we didn't realize but we had very similar numbers. About 40% of our people didn't know you guys [Great Game], and didn't know all the educational pieces that we had done, because we did such a good job in that early phase when we first started playing the Game. I'm going to take that cue and I'm going to see what we can do to do more education.
3. Communication and transparency lessens fear and anxiety. (click to jump to this topic below) I just knew I needed to communicate to people, because there was a sense of fear. There was a sense of “were we going to shut the doors?” “Were we gonna lay everybody off?” So, we talked about communicating and how we would communicate with each other. Then, how would we communicate with our clients? And then we went into the financials. What we were doing to shore up our company. So money in, money out. Being as transparent as possible.
4. Focus on serving your people and your clients. (click to jump to this topic below) All of us are trying to figure out ways to make sure our future is secure and to be transparent about it. We're reaching out to all of our clients and all of our vendors and asking if there's any way we can help. We're just making sure that we try to do everything that we can to survive and to also be good citizens and good community citizens. Is there anything that we can do if we don't have a job where we can go and help somebody else?
5. Communication is key. (click to jump to this topic below) It's a daily conversation and communication that goes two ways, really, and I want to really emphasize this as it's—one way of communication is kind of top down in terms of what we know at this particular time and what we can do, but then also getting feedback from the employees about really what's a question that is going through their mind? What do they need to know? What are they really worried about? So that communication rhythm really helps first and foremost.
Continue scrolling to read the full episode transcription.
Steve Baker (00:10): Hi, everybody, and welcome to our Friday live stream with the Great Game of Business. I'm Steve Baker, the vice president of Great Game and I'm here with Rich Armstrong, the president of the Great Game of Business and longtime employee owner of SRC Holdings in Springfield, Missouri. Thanks for spending time with us. We're super excited. How are you doing, Rich?
Rich Armstrong (00:31): Good, how are you, Steve?
Steve Baker (00:33): So far, so good. Today we have a very special guest: Liz Wilder with Anthony Wilder Architecture, Interiors and Construction. Longtime friend of the Great Game and of the show. Like it's a show, and what we're gonna do is start off, before we talk to Liz, by going back to our question last week. Rich, I got to say, you know, you could really categorize the responses to our question: do you have a 90-day plan? Have you created a 90-day plan yet? And as I read through them, the responses really fell into these categories: “yes,” “gonna,” “no,” and “is there a tool for that?” And so I thought it might be great if there was anything specific about “here's exactly what we're doing.” So maybe for the viewers and listeners out there, you could talk about what's been happening at Great Game with our coaches and the team at Great Game through these last few days.
Rich Armstrong (01:39): Yeah, absolutely. I think when we threw that question out, it was something that of course, with SRC, we've had certainly several times in our history where we've had a recession or crisis like this that we had to respond to you. So it's a natural reaction for us to take a look at our next 90 days and really focus on what is most important. At SRC, we spent the last couple of weeks first focusing on our people and making sure that they're healthy and safe. But then, second, is also looking at what our financial condition is, right? And put a 90-day plan together on how we're going to act on that.
So for the last couple weeks, we've been putting that 90-day plan together, actually, our 90-day plan for SRC from each one of the business units was due yesterday by noon. And again, the whole idea of this is to really look first and foremost is really kind of our cash position, where we stand in terms of our inventory of cash. How much cash we have, how much cash we will need over the next maybe three months, six months? And then, what are the sources of cash? From the receivables and schedules we already have, but also other means in terms of what kind of debt capacity and other opportunities to put some additional cash in the business to get through this.
So, when we're going through that process, one of the things that kind of came to mind was that maybe these are some things that we could share directly with our practitioners and our community in terms of helping them. So, our coaches have worked diligently over the last couple of weeks, also taking some of these tools, and putting in together another resource guide for our community. So, think of this as your 90-day cash plan resource guide. There's really three elements of this guide. One is that there's a cash calculator included; which can quickly give you a way to assess your cash position and kind of define those key drivers that you need to focus on in regards to driving cash, but also to run scenarios. And they kind of look at what the next three to six months really looks like and run different scenarios on what's most likely maybe the worst case scenario and the best case scenarios and work those scenarios.
The second part of this tool is really the 90-day planning tool itself. And once you run those scenarios, we need to set our new financial targets for the next 90 days so we can start to work that plan. So, this is to help you lay out those new targets for you and your team. The third one is a cash scoreboard. So going right back to the Great Game of Business basics. This is all about building a scoreboard to act on. To start weekly forecasting against that plan and assign line ownership and accountability. I think most of our practitioners out there are fairly used to forecasting weekly around their income statement, and maybe a lot of their cash management has been done in the back room by the CFO. Maybe we need to pull that forward and this scorecard can give you a way to immediately start to use those basic Great Game practices. Like for forecasting, weekly forecasting, accountability, and line ownership immediately and start really working the plan.
And then the last part of this resource guide is just a collection of tips, tricks and hacks around how you can inspire the team to drive and really start to work on your cash. So all that's kind of combined to a resource guide that we can provide to the community. But also, talking with the coaches, one of the concerns was, is that cash can be very complicated. It's sometimes very difficult to educate the team on, and so we thought it was very important that these tools came with some support. And so what we’re basically throwing two opportunities out here. One, is that next week, early next week on Tuesday, right now it's looking at scheduling at about five o'clock pm Central Time next Tuesday is a webinar that's going to be led by our coaches that basically just explains these tools. It's a free webinar, just to give you an opportunity to sit in on that and really understand the tools that we're providing and how to maybe use those tools immediately and how to apply them in the business.
But also, if there's a practitioner, or one of our guests that really needs that help right now and would like to start talking about how to use these tools, feel free to give us a call. We would certainly be able to pair you up with one of our coaches to have a 60 to 90-minute coaching session that they can sit down with you, immediately, and start to help you understand how to use these tools and help you right now. So, those are the two options out there that we have. So, there's no better time to start than right now with it. So please reach out to us, and hopefully these tools can be very helpful for you guys.
Steve Baker (07:02): Yeah, I love it, man. In fact, I'm so proud to be a part of a team that has thrown together all their creative talents, all of their business acumen, to create these really great content chunks. Like last week, we talked about the whole site where you can find this greatgame.com/crisis. That includes the Black Swan action guide and the 10 steps of the actions you need to take right now. Now we've got this cash package. It's a suite of cash tools. And if I heard you right, Rich, the coaches have come up with the cash calculator, scoreboard, tips, tricks and hacks all around cash and how to manage it in these crazy times. And then the webinar, when is the webinar again?
Rich Armstrong (07:49): Next Tuesday, tentatively at 5pm Central, that we’ll be sending some information on that right after this.
Steve Baker (08:00): Perfect, perfect. So everybody out there, please make sure number one, we started this show by asking a question: do you have a 90-day plan? And so many people were kind of on the fence, or no. It is done now, and these are tools that are available right now. And as soon as next Tuesday at 5pm Central a webinar and then of course, you've got life coaches available—donating their time to walk you through these tools. I think that's what makes me so proud to be part of this community. So Rich, thanks for walking us through this. We have a lot to talk about today. And I think it's time to jump in and welcome our guest. What we're going to do is bring Liz Wilder online here and Liz, you can go ahead and open up your video. Before we start I do want to remind people that we're there's a Q&A section on the Zoom toolbar below. Rich and I will be watching this so that we can try and answer your questions as we go through our program together. So please use that Q&A function, if you can.
So Liz Wilder, a friend of ours, I was gonna say an old friend, but that's just mean. Liz has been around the Great Game for probably even longer than I've been with the Great Game and I've been here 14 years. She's the president of Anthony Wilder Architecture, Interiors and Construction. They design and build your dream. And they've been through, let's just say, not just one of these black swans but a couple. And when she and I talked about what should the title of this episode should be, we said, “a completely different kind of crisis.” So, this is the “Completely Different Kind of Crisis” edition of the Great Game of Business Friday livestream. Hello, Liz, can you hear us?
I just want to point out to everyone that not only is Liz like super cool, but she cares so much about people that this story that you're about to hear here as it continues to unfold live. You know, it doesn't happen without the right leadership. So number one is: begin with the right leadership. And Liz, you are one of those people. Why don't, for the benefit of the audience, why don't you tell us what Anthony Wilder does, kind of a little bit of your history, and then we'll get into some questions?
Liz Wilder (10:20): Okay. We do residential architecture, interior design, and construction. And we've been involved with the Great Game since about 2006. And very much have embraced it and feel grateful to you guys for all of your leadership and willingness to be so kind and share so much. I have all my guides right here. Thank you.
So even though we are longtime Great Game players. I find this stuff that you guys put out is super helpful and very grounding for me, and I am very excited about this webinar that you talked about about cash, because it does scare. It's the number one way to go out of businesses, to not have cash. So we feel fortunate to have been allowed to continue to work. So in this very crazy, unpredictable time, the government, not just the federal government but our local jurisdictions, because we're in the Washington DC area, have deemed us to be essential. But that doesn't come without some serious responsibility.
1. Create your own North Star.
We have to do all the things to stay safe because we created something that we call our North Star. So saving lives is number one. So we have to adhere to all the things that we've been told by all the experts about how to stay safe, because it's just a scary situation. And I would feel terrible, and would not know how to deal with the situation if someone got sick. So that is our North Star is: number one saving lives and then secondly, saving livelihoods.
Steve Baker (12:18): So, let's do that first. Let's, before you talk about the North Star and what you're doing today in this crisis, could you take us back in the way-back machine back to 08-09. And look, some of the people that are viewing right now have heard about you and seen you speak on the mainstage at the gathering, and they've seen MSNBC pieces on you both in 2008 and then in 2016. Tell us about what happened during the housing crisis.
Liz Wilder (12:47): So we had just started playing the Game just about a year and a half or two years before the housing crisis. So, we were very fortunate, because at the time that we started the Game, we were highly successful. So, bonuses for everyone, but I remember a coach telling us very specifically, “You're not going to learn to play the Game unless you go through a crisis.”
And it was because the analogy was little kids playing soccer. And as you grow and develop, you become more like professional soccer players. So the 2008 crisis was certainly, in my lifetime was, one of the most challenging times, and I remember not knowing what to do and pulling a group together—a group of mentors together, you guys included, in just trying to figure out how we were going to navigate that. And it was scary, and I'm not an ice queen but I'm kind of like that—don’t cry very easily. But, to stand up in front of your entire team and have to announce that you're taking some of their livelihood away to be able to survive for a plan to stay together.
So that was what we did in 2008. But, this crisis is completely different in that the element of potentially losing people and the need to work safely just makes it so different from the other—not that you don't have some of the same lessons learned and tips and techniques, and your scoreboard and all the things we've learned from Great Game, but that element of making sure that you remind yourself every day of what that North Star is and that to let everybody say what they want.
Steve Baker (14:45): Yeah, so back then you pulled everyone together, you were already transparent, you're teaching people the business, and as I recall, in order to keep people there and to keep them employed, because you wanted to keep the team together. People were volunteering to take cuts and you as leadership had a higher level, if I remember right. It was like, if the team can take a 20% cut, and management takes 30%, we’ll take 50%, Anthony and I. Is that right? Am I remembering that right?
Liz Wilder (15:15): Yeah, that's exactly right. That's exactly what we did. And the reason that we did that, we wanted to cut deep the first time because I didn't want to have to keep coming back. And our hope was that was a deep enough cut, that we wouldn't have to come back and say, “We need to either lose people or take more money.” So we did go with that plan. And because we had just come through this very educational time with Great Game, and teaching people the PnL on the balance sheet, and all the things about how they contribute to the well-being of the company financially.
It was in that vein that they were able to easily see in the 2008 crisis that we were coming up on this cliff where we didn't have work and the likelihood of getting work was going to be minimal. And I believe it is that stuff that really helped us survive that and survive it together. And we had some of the suggestions that I've seen in your paperwork: you have to have the short term cover, but you also have to have the long game. And that is why we came up with that strategy. It was our long game, because we felt there would be a recovery, and we wanted to be able to react to the recovery in a timely fashion and not have to completely rebuild our team. So we were forced to have executed in that manner, but a lot is to thank our coaches in the Great Game.
Rich Armstrong (16:50): Liz, you mentioned it when you talk about the long game, it was interesting also, is that although you made those cuts, you didn't position it in a way that those cuts were lost forever, right? You still said look, we would like to see an opportunity in the upturn to be able to pay this back. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Yeah.
Liz Wilder (17:14): Yeah, we use the scoreboard instead of to pay a bonus. We called it “paying the back pay.” So what we did was with the scoreboard, we paid back every penny that we took from people. So, if we took 20% of your salary for a year, we repaid that plus 5% interest overtime. And we did all of that before we would restore salaries and I just felt like we were in it together so we had to come out of it together, and it wasn't a strategy to make Anthony and I rich. It was a strategy to invest in Anthony Wilder Design Build and the people that make Anthony Wilder Design Build all that it is.
Steve Baker (18:05): Right, right. And I'm going to ask Rich a question, and then I'm going to come back to you, Liz. Rich, every morning, you're at a nine o'clock call with Jack and the other presidents and GMs of the SRC companies. One of the things that came out of this is the amount of people who have not been through a crisis. Can you talk a little bit about that? And then Liz, I'll bring it to you.
Rich Armstrong (18:26): What's interesting, if you take the last five, maybe 10 years for some of us that we've had rapid growth, and we've been adding a lot of people to our staff since the last recession, and we wake up one day and realize that close to 40% of our employee base has been here less than two years. So if you think about that, how do you keep up with that education? They've never experienced what we're going through. And, how do you quickly educate everyone in terms of some of the basic practices of the Great Game of Business that we're used to, right? We can talk openly to them about the financial performance of the business because they're trained, but with this 40% how many of them have we missed?
But if you look back over the last year, we spent a lot of time focusing on those that middle supervisory rank, and really making sure our supervisors that are working with those frontline employees really understand the practices of the Game, and really understand how to teach the financial picture of the business and how the frontline can get involved with that. And that's been, that's worked great.
But this time, when we're seeing some downtime for SRC as well because our schedules are short, is that we're doubling down on that training and making sure that group has the right kind of training now. Rather than waiting If we have some kind of V curve recovery here, where all of a sudden our schedules go through the roof we won't have time to train. We won't have time to get people in that training. So we're trying to take those types of strategies to be able to prepare for the upturn.
Steve Baker (20:16): Awesome. So, Liz, you guys came through the crucible of the Great Recession, and your team probably was stronger than ever, because the trust and communication and love and you guys pulled together to make it all happen. Well, between then and now, as not only a business leader, but also an industry leader. You must have grown and done some of the things Rich was talking about, you adding people. What's your experience there? I mean, how many? What percentage of your people are new and haven't been through this experience?
2. Get back to basics - teach the numbers.
Liz Wilder (20:49): Well, similar to what Rich said is we did a survey, it was about a year ago, and in the response from the survey we didn't realize but we had very similar numbers. About 40% of our people didn't know you guys, didn't know all the educational pieces that we had done, because we did such a good job in that early phase when we first started playing the Game. So we probably, a year ago, should have been doing more. And I'm going to take that cue and I'm going to reach out to Mark, who's our Great Game Champion, and see what we can do to do more education.
Because, I do think that there's a disconnectedness that happened that I would like to reestablish that we had when we first started playing the Game. I mean, it was new, it was fun, it was exciting, and in playing the Game for a long time, trying to make sure that it stays fresh and that it stays relevant is sometimes a challenge.
Steve Baker (21:50): Yeah, for sure. Especially now because, first of all, being connected when you can come into the same building and have a huddle or, or get on a Skype or whatever. But now, we've got this thing where we're all spread out and secluded. We've got to stay connected any way we can. So I assume you're using technology like we're using right now to have frequent meetings, continue your huddle practices, and, as Rich says, you kind of double down on the Game. Is that true?
Liz Wilder (22:15): Yes. Yes. Our huddles are now virtual. And we had that ability before, but it wasn't widely used like it is today, because almost everybody's working from home with the exception of people that are in the field. So, we've used it to run our huddles. We used it—one of the carpenters had an education session that turned into like a Q&A that a bunch of people joined in. On Friday afternoons, because we work a nine-hour day Monday through Thursday, and on Fridays at noon, we used to go over to what we call CR 3 or conference room three, which is really a bar restaurant. We would celebrate yet getting through another week. And so instead of doing that at CR 3, it's now virtual. You can bring whatever beverage you feel is necessary.
So, we're using technology and we're meeting with clients also via Zoom. So just being able to use technology in this crisis has been very helpful because I think seeing, and it's one of the things that we did was a town hall right away—not right away, but within the first couple of weeks of knowing stuff. We did a town hall, and I thought that was more important for us to have this kind of Zoom interaction than it would be to send out an email. An email feels so impersonal and can be missed. It’s not as good, because you don't see the person; you don't see their emotions. You don't. It's a different kind of connectedness. This isn't ideal, but it's a lot better than an email.
Steve Baker (23:58): Yeah, for sure. For what it's worth, we are fortunate that we live in times where it can be this convenient to call somebody up instead of the impersonal email. Now, one of the things that you did first, and I want to make sure we get into the interview is that when this all first started coming down, you had the foresight to take fear out of the organization. And that I believe, is the genesis of your town hall and your North Star document. Can you walk us through, talk us through North Star and just help people understand what that is?
Liz Wilder (24:28): Yeah. Well, I mean, I think the Great Game—I don't even think that I'm cognizant sometimes of some of the things that I've learned from the Great Game. I think that some of it has become so natural to me that I don't think of it in terms of those things. Taking the fear out of the organization, for example.
3. Communication and transparency lessens fear and anxiety.
I just knew I needed to communicate to people, because there was a sense of fear. There was a sense of “were we going to shut the doors?” Were we gonna lay everybody off? And everybody looking to me for all the answers is not healthy for this organization, or really any organization to have all of, think that there's a wizard behind the curtain.
So we did do a town what we call the “town hall,” and in town hall, I communicated this North Star statement. Which, number one, I think that leadership has to communicate what is most important and really what is most important is saving lives. And so to make sure that people have what they need to operate that way, because I have people that are putting their lives at risk and their families at risk that are out in the field. So, making sure you're washing your hands and that kind of communication. And then, saving livelihoods. Understanding that we are doing everything we can so that we came out with things like, what are the things that we're going to do?
So, we talked about communicating and how we would communicate with each other. Then, how would we communicate with our clients? And then we went into the financials. What we were doing to shore up our company. So money in, money out. Being as transparent, telling people, we were going to activate our line of credit. And when Debbie texted me the copy from the bank, that the money went in, part of me was, like, so excited and relieved. And then the other part of me is like, “Oh no. We have all this money that doesn't belong to us, but we might need it.” And we had a complication on top of that of our bank just being sold and April 1 transferred. And so, I think the more that I could share with my team, so they understood what I was doing, and that I too didn't have all the answers and I need them to come up with our plan, I think was just part of what Great Game is about and being transparent with people.
And then we got transparency on tough stuff like layoffs and furloughs. And that I don't have the answer. But that is on all of us to make sure that we ensure our future and that we don't experience things, but I can't be everybody's savior. I can't save every job if we don't all work together, and we don't try to come up with a plan that makes sense. I have got to do my best to save the entity.
Steve Baker (27:33): Right, that long term sustainability, the promise of “there is a future.” And this kind of brings to mind something that I was reminded of recently in Jim Collins, in Good to Great he talks about the Stockdale Paradox and the whole idea of Admiral Stockdale was a Vietnam vet, tortured for eight years, and when he was interviewed, Collins asked him, “Well, what happened to the people who didn't survive?” He said, “Those were the optimists.” But, what does that mean? It means that you have to have an unwavering faith that you will prevail, but face the brutal facts, and that sounds like exactly what you did with North Star. And if you could, could you recap the four points again? Of the North Star? We have a question in the Q&A.
Liz Wilder (28:16): Okay. Okay, here it is. Number one is saved lines. Number two, save livelihoods. And number three, communicate with transparency and empathy. So that became apparent to me, as each of us have different lives. And so we don't all understand each other's position because we each have a different set of circumstances. One person might be completely freaked out about the money, and another person completely freaked out about the potential illness that could ensue. And another about, “oh my god, my kids are home,” and it's just everybody comes at this from a different place and to be kind to each other and to listen with empathy, I think is important.
Steve Baker (29:05): Now, that's amazing. Rich, I think you had some questions for Liz also.
Rich Armstrong (29:11): Well, I mean, it was interesting that you were talking about optimism and empathy. Jack, in today's call at 9 am with exactly that line is that, “Look, we got to find ways to keep people excited about the future, but at the same time really hit on the brutal facts and what we're up against.” I'm kind of curious, Liz. What's next for you? What are you doing right now? That you're thinking, “Okay, there's gonna obviously be an upturn.” What things are you trying to do to kind of position yourself for that?
4. Focus on serving your people and your clients.
Liz Wilder (29:51): Well, I think number one, I'm trying to keep our team together. That certainly is our ability to survive this. But in addition to that, is that all of us are trying to figure out ways to make sure that our future is secure and to be transparent about it. You know, we have our scoreboard and there is a clip, and it's right around the 90-day time frame. And it's on all of us to figure that out. So, there've been brainstorming sessions about what can we do to change our marketing. This was our old marketing: come home to extraordinary.” We're pivoting and we're going to “home is where the heart is.” Because coming home to extraordinary doesn't sound right for this time.
And we're reaching out to all of our clients and all of our vendors and asking if there's any way we can help. We're trying to take advantage of all of the federal and state level—I don't know if they’re loans or grants at this point, but we're just making sure that we try to do everything that we can to survive and to also be good citizens and good community citizens. Is there anything that we can do if we don't have a job where we can go and help somebody else? And can we use the funds that we make to make that happen and, last another month, and another month, and another month. So, there's a lot that we're doing. And it's not all on me. And I feel so fortunate to have an amazing team who are out there working now. Others in the marketing department are trying to figure out how to send the right message at this time. Others in business development are reaching out to clients to see if there's anything we can do to help. And then, the existing clients that we have, making sure that we're working safely. I mean, there's so many aspects to this, that it's hard to get my mind around it and I feel fortunate to have an amazing team that's helping me do that. We have a new line of business that seems to be timely.
We just started this Wilder Works, which is projects that tend not to be so extravagant, like the “come home to extraordinary” yet still meet a need for people. And they come at a different price point, which I think is very helpful. That team's been amazing. I have to tell you, I'm humbled by all of the amazing things and people that happen for us, including you guys in Great Game and the coaching you've done and all the resources, but my team too. It's just humbling. We have clients that are just, they get it. They understand that we're trying to survive, they're reaching out, they're sending work our way. They're referring us. Even a client that we're currently working with, he reached out and asked if we knew anybody who he could make a financial contribution to as a charitable event so that he was contributing also. So, I just feel very, very fortunate. And I know that intrinsically some of this stuff is stuff I learned through the Great Game, but I know I can't do it on my own. And I feel very fortunate to have so much support.
Steve Baker (33:12): Yeah, that's awesome. Well, we're starting to get some questions from the audience. Rich, is there anything that you have for Liz before we move on?
Rich Armstrong (33:23): I’d just like Liz to help us with these questions.
Steve Baker (33:26): Yeah, absolutely. We do want you to stay on the couch for the rest of the show here. But this is an interesting one. Rich, why don't you answer the question about people?
Rich Armstrong (33:43): There is a question that we have about if the organization right now, the company's in good financial position today, would they would we recommend, or would the community recommend that they go after those talented people that maybe some people are laying off. I think that that's a real, good example of bold moves that you can take. If you position your business where—or you're in a market where your financial position is good, I would look at every opportunity to reposition the business to be more competitive in the upturn, which starts with your people. And if you have an opportunity to bring on some talent ahead of time, and you feel like you see that growth coming in the next 6, 12, 18 months. Those are some bold moves to take. Because once that turn around comes around, you're the one with the talented people that can deliver and provide services. So I certainly would be aggressive on that where it makes sense.
Steve Baker (34:45): So, Liz, you're right in the middle of it all. What do you think? I mean, we're hearing stories out there, right now, about people who have been thinking about making acquisitions, or maybe they weren't, but we know one company in Chicago, in particular, that has been approached by their top competitor’s talent who closed down in the hospitality business. They've actually approached her friend and said, “Hey, I've been thinking about making a move. Are you guys hiring?” Anything like that going on? Where are you at with that, Liz?
Liz Wilder (35:18): No, I think that our sector is a little bit different in that we've been deemed essential. So we're not seeing that level, yet. I'm not saying it's not coming. And fortunately, we had a backlog so we have places for people to work. But I think I'm trying to be more creative on the side of “how do I keep the team I have” in the future and then 90 days and then 120 days, etc. If we were approached by a rock star, I would love to entertain it and see what we could do. and look at that, but my situation is so fluid right now. Because, one minute, a client will call and say, we're in the middle of renovating their bathroom and then they'll say “I'm sorry, but I don't want anybody in my home.” So scrambling to prep places for that team. And next minute, I get a phone call or AP get a phone call from a client who says, “We love you guys are ready to start our deck right away. Can you come over right now?” So, that's very fluid for us. And I haven't been approached or know anybody who is looking right now, particularly our area too.
Steve Baker (36:38): Yeah. It'll be interesting to see what happens. I think we're all in the “what can we possibly expect” and we don't know that. So, you're out there to treat your people and take care of them as best we can.
Liz Wilder (36:56): We’re looking for different opportunities and putting our minds to that, and different ways to work. So this working from home thing I probably wasn't proponent of before, but I think this has shown us there's a different way to do business and if you think, today, that your business tomorrow will be the same way you did it yesterday, I think you're not setting yourself up for success.
Steve Baker (37:22): Okay, here's a question. What steps have you taken with your carpenters going into homes? Masks, gloves, etc.
Liz Wilder (37:30): We have given them all the protective gear that they need. We've also requested and made signs in both English and Spanish about what we need people to do. We made wash stations so people can wash their hands, because we know that's more effective than the hand sanitizers. We're restricting people to be within that six feet—we actually are leaning more towards 10 feet now that we've heard all this stuff and the new information about masks. We're trying to keep the protective gear to a reasonable level and not be bad community citizens and hoard stuff, while still trying to protect our people.
We've been super fortunate that the projects that we're working on. Most of them don't have a homeowner living in them, so that piece has been very fortunate. But we have strategies in place to be able to work in people's homes where we put up walls and protection so that we can contain it. And just super diligent about if you don't feel well, we've had a couple people need to stay home. Or be in a situation where they may have been exposed, so we asked them to stay at home. All of that.
Steve Baker (38:44): Well, thanks for that. So here's one question coming in from the community that I'm going to ask first, Liz, you, and then I'm gonna take it to Rich. Because, I’d like this SRC’s perspective on it too. Do you have any resources or guidance to share about how to navigate the Federal and State financial resources for small businesses? Any thoughts, Liz?
Liz Wilder (39:05): Yeah, so I'm fortunate on that level too. So one of our employees has a spouse that is involved in the government and was able to send us sort of a checklist of “here's the things that are coming and here's the things you need to get ready for.” Our banker, the SBA loans, he right away called me. He said, “You want to do this, you want to activate your line of credit.” And then he sent me the whole package for the SBA stuff. And he said, “You need to get this to me right away, because it's first in, first out.” And so from that perspective, we've had a lot of good mentoring and people helping out. And I think the more connected you are to people, the more opportunities that you have. So, now that I have done the federal piece, now I'm going to move over and start working on the state piece. And I've got one of the people that we work with, her husband is connected to somebody who's stepping us through that. So I feel fortunate you guys have been great with all of your suggestions.
Steve Baker (40:23): Well, I appreciate that. I will tell you that one thing that I took home from Jack's original advice a few weeks ago, which was “be first in line.” I think your banker said the same thing. It's first come first serve, be the first in line. And man, that was the first calls I made at home were like, I'm calling the bank, I'm calling mortgage. I’m calling everybody. And you know what? Everyone responded positively. It was like, “We are here to help.” It was absolutely incredible. So I think I'm gonna take it to Rich now and say, Rich, you've been in those meetings at SRC holdings. You know, are there resources that we can point anyone to state/federal? Any insights there?
Rich Armstrong (41:04): Well, to be honest with you, Steve, it is a bit confusing. There is confusion right now in terms of what's really developing right now. On our crisis page that we do have at Great Game of Business, we're trying to keep some of that up. In fact, and I need to make sure that Michele has this, but we also received approval, basically, to link it to SRC’s site as well with all of those resources. So I think that's something to look at. And the only reason I'm talking about how there's a lot of mixed messages out there, is just understanding and between the federal and the state and what we can do personally. We're trying to be as clear and transparent as we possibly can on what actually is going to happen. Whether we're going to receive certain resources and that sort of thing. And for us at SRC, we're kind of in a unique situation where many of the business type support is not necessarily available to us because we're over 500 employees. Trying to work that out even though we’re a series of small business units.
Steve Baker (42:17): It is so confusing and tough to navigate. I think, going back to what both, Liz, you and Rich have talked about, is this over communication, constant communication, utilizing the tools that we have to stay in touch with our people, so that they don't feel like they are out there alone and they don't have answers. That leads me to another question that I think I'd like the answers from both of you on. That is that back in ’08, we just heard Liz's story about trying to keep jobs, trying to keep people employed, take care of livelihoods.
For us, at SRC Jack was always jobs first, jobs first, protecting jobs first. The current situation, because it is, I'll use Liz’s word fluid, things are always changing every day. You go out and you talk to your vendors, your suppliers, your bankers, your partners. You talk to your customers. Then, it's like, okay, now we're going to try to figure out what resources the state and federal would give us. What about the potential of layoffs and furloughs? Liz, in your North Star document, you actually address that full on, head on, right when you did your town hall. Can you share that with us a little bit?
Liz Wilder (43:28): Yeah, I mean, I just felt like we needed to talk about the elephant in the room and I don't know whether or not we're going to experience layoffs and furloughs. We might as well talk about it, and might as well share what we know in case other people don't know. So, we talked about how long it was taking to turn claims around. We talked about how much money a person could expect to get. Plus, you get the 13 weeks of the extra $600 a month. All these things that people may not realize. So, I just think there was a responsibility there to say, like you guys told us, not just for our company, but for us personally, you need a 90-day plan.
And what if you get laid off? You know, get yourself in a place where if you get laid off how much money you're going to be coming in, and do the things that we're doing. Ask for deferred payment on mortgages, and ask all the people that you owe money to and the more money has coming in. Ask them where they are. Will they do anything? Is there any consideration? And hoard cash. I mean, I hate to say it, but I think that is something that's important to do personally and for the company, because without cash you can't operate.
Steve Baker (44:47): Right. That's amazing. So the thing is, you're not looking at layoffs and furloughs right now but you have a plan, and everybody knows how powerful is that? When people get up every morning they know, “Look, this has happened and we're going to work.” But I know they’ve got a plan so they can focus on the work at hand. I think you even talked about that bravery that courage, Liz, that you show as a leader allows for a creation of this safe space where their best creative work can happen and best creative thinking. Did I capture what you had told me the other day?
Liz Wilder (45:22): Um, yeah, I mean, that fear for me for sure. Like when I start to get scared, I can't think as clearly as I need to, and I can't be as productive as I need to. Because, I'm so scared that I do think that there's something to breathing, and that when you breathe, is holding your breath so that you can think more clearly. So as we go into fear mode, it just shuts us down and we're not as creative. And when there's this space to be able to say, “Okay, we're confident in what we're doing and the things that we have to offer, and we're confident that there's a need for it. What do we need to do to make sure the world knows and that we're doing our part? And what do I need to know in order to know that my situation is secure? And if it's not, what do I need to do to make it secure?”
5. Communication is key.
And being vulnerable is one of those things. And I sent out your documents that you guys have to our team, and I said, “Let's audit ourselves.” Let's say, “How are we doing? Where do we need to improve?” And that kind of stuff. I don't want to be frivolous about the seriousness of this stuff. I mean, we've got people that are working, and there's this virus out there and someone could get sick and we just want to be sure about what we're doing so that as adversity comes to us, we're confident in our ability to handle it.
Steve Baker (46:51): Yeah. Awesome. Well, Rich, you have been around SRC for a long time. Far longer than your hair color would indicate. What I'd like to ask you is: layoffs, furloughs, through the years you've seen Jack live what he talks about, which is jobs first. Can you tell us what SRC is doing right now, what we're talking about around job security and the realities of the marketplace?
Rich Armstrong (47:20): Yeah, I think I think it comes right back to the daily communication that we're having. So it's, as Liz said, it's very fluid. So it's a daily conversation and communication that goes two ways, really, and I want to really emphasize this as it's—one way of communication is kind of top down in terms of what we know at this particular time and what we can do, but then also getting feedback from the employees about really what's a question that is going through their mind? What do they need to know? What are they really worried about? So that communication rhythm really helps first and foremost. Specifically, I think it just comes down into terms of—Jack talks a lot about levels of understanding when we need to make certain decisions. And one of those certain decisions is what if we have a partial shutdown in some of our factories? And what are we going to do for those people? And what if we have a complete shutdown? Because the government says that's the only way to get ahead of this in terms of the virus.
And we went through those, as Jack talked about in our first live stream, those analyses of, “Okay, what is going to be available from the state? What is gonna be available from the federal government? And then what do we need to offset?” So, our goal is 100% paid and make sure that our people are taken care of in the short term, and focus on retaining those people first. And so we've communicated that out into percentages of what we think is going to happen and if we do see partial shutdowns or full shutdowns, what the employees can expect to happen. And I think it was really interesting what Liz said about the timing too, because that's the whole other thing. We know maybe what is available, but what's the timing of a lot of that is very important. So we've talked a lot about when can you expect this if we had a partial shutdown or full shutdown?
Steve Baker (49:27): Thank you both. So, coming from a guy like me, who's old enough to have been through a lot of different types of businesses in the past, and having been laid off as a young man, I do my job. “How do I get laid off?” Yeah, that's a terrible feeling. So working in a place like SRC, or Anthony Wilder, where you actually know what the policy is, and what would roll out if these triggers happen—hugely important. So I would encourage the audience to think about and get that 90-day plan done, use the tools that we've got for you. Talk to your people. Be transparent and courageous and vulnerable, and have a plan. What if the worst case scenario happens? I remember Jack talking about planning for the worst but expect the best. Sounds like that Stockdale Paradox thing again, is let's not call it doves and rainbows, but let's not give up. Never, never give up.
I think there's a couple of other things that are coming up here. Like, Liz and Rich, both of you, I'd like to ask you this one. Before we go to some other Q&A that's a little bit more on Great Game side, a little less on Anthony Wilder. What are you working on, Liz? I'm sorry—what about great game practices? What have you adjusted or changed? Are you still playing mini-games? What about huddles? What are you telling people about the bonus plan? What are you doing to create wins? What's different about the Game in Anthony Wilder?
Liz Wilder (50:55): Well, it'll certainly be for us because of the timing of this. This is our fourth quarter; April 30 is our year end. So, bonuses are off the table. We will use that money to secure our future. So that's one thing for sure that we’ve done. We were having the town halls daily. So we've gone now there isn't that need to communicate like that right now. We've gone to weekly, so we'll probably include the town hall as the first part of our huddle. We're continuing to huddle. We've always not been your best mini-game players. And I think this might be an opportunity for us. We want to understand mini-games. We understand the concept. It is a weakness that we have. So maybe we'll find a way to do that. And I think just the over communicating thing is something that we're doing.
I sent to everyone, all your documents, as I said, so I think It's important to do those things. I think it's important to continue to show the scoreboard and just show, for us the June-July timeframe doesn't make anybody feel warm and fuzzy. And it's on all of us to change that. So continuing the practices and when I read your documents, I'm thankful to you guys, and particularly for Jack, for documenting all this and being well prepared, and having a way to do it and understand it, and have competence that other people have been successful with it and watching you guys has been part of it. So, there's a lot still going on. And there's new stuff with town halls, new communications, new ways to use the scoreboard. I'm really excited about your webinar. Again, I want to make sure to put that on my schedule because I think having a cash scoreboard is important. It gets your team to understand. If you don't have money, you can't you can't continue on.
Steve Baker (53:00): Yeah, it's lifeblood, isn't it? When in fact, we just got a comment, not a question. From Gwinnett Bryant, who you've seen before at the gathering: “It feels good to know that we're not the only one struggling with mini-games.” So thank you for being transparent with that. So great job, Liz. And here's a good one: “What are some of the community outreach programs you would suggest during this time?” Is there anything you all are doing that you feel strongly about?
Liz Wilder (53:28): Well, I mean, I think everybody's industry has different kinds of communities. So for us, the first outreach we did was to our clients, because they are very important to us. And we're trying to make sure that our messaging to them is correct, and to try to ensure that they trust us, and that we're working safely, and we're not putting them at risk. That's definitely an important communication to the community that were open but not braggadocious. We feel fortunate to be considered essential. But that comes with a serious responsibility. So doing that.
Then, reaching out to our vendors and saying, “Hey, we want to survive, and we just want to make sure we're doing everything to survive. Is there anything that you can do to help us?” So, that was another community thing: what can we do to help some of our clients, or older communities, that might need us. Like, the White Circle is a place that we're connected to and the Children's Inn and just, I think that we can connect with each other and the more that we understand what each other's needs, the more powerful that is, and the more likely that will help us ensure our future.
Steve Baker (54:42): Yeah, you guys have always done such a great job at Anthony Wilder about being part of the community, being good citizens, and you actually use those as team building opportunities, which I think is a twofer. You're helping out people and you're helping out yourselves. And I especially like your approach which was that there's a difference between confidence and arrogance, right? And you're just the confident ones, you're not out there just blowing up Anthony Wilder as a brand. Your marketing pivot is really interesting to me, because when we were on the phone the other day, Edith mentioned that somebody was sharing a chocolate chip cookie recipe or something because we're all stuck at home, how do you make this just a little bit better? And cookies are a pretty good way to do it. So I like that a lot. We’re running out of time and stay with us, Liz, we're going to just touch on a few more things before we wrap up here. And that one of them is, Rich, we've got a new question for the community. You want to throw that at them?
Rich Armstrong (55:50): Yeah, we again, every week, just to remind everyone, we try to throw out a question to the community to get some feedback. Because, we're trying to gather all the experts we can. And again, in true humility, we don't have all the answers, but we know that there's probably some people out in the community that can provide those. We were curious if the community could provide us some insight on what advisors that they're reaching out to right now. Who's their trusted advisors that are really providing a lot of good resources to them on how to work through this crisis and come out on the other side in a good place? And so we want to throw that question out there. If there's any feedback on what you guys have had, maybe even if some of those advisors would be potential guests that we could bring onto the show as well.
Steve Baker (56:45): Awesome. So everybody, think about that. Get your 90-day plan going. You've got all the tools. Be at the webinar on Tuesday at 5 Central to figure out your cash and answer this question: Who are you looking to? Getting advice from? Getting support from? We'd like to hear from you for sure. So, as we kind of wrap up the day, there were a couple of other things people asked on the Q&A about the cash tool, is there a link? Rich, am I right in thinking that this will all be on greatgame.com/crisis?
Rich Armstrong (57:19): It will be. It will be available on the site as well as some emails to our database. And absolutely, to the people that are attending this live stream right now.
Steve Baker (57:33): Okay, great. Well, I would like to thank you, Rich, for all of your insights from the SRC perspective and the community's perspective. Liz, what can I say? I mean, you're always awesome. I don't know how you got your hair done when all the hair places are closed, but congratulations, you look great. And please give our best to the team.
Liz Wilder (57:58): But anyway, from us to you, and just an offer to your community, if there's anything we can do to help, we're here. I do feel like we're drinking from the fire hose of prices. But whatever we can do to help, we want to do that, because we know that's how this works.
Steve Baker (58:19): Liz, you're the best. Thank you so much. We appreciate you. Tell Anthony thanks from us.
Rich Armstrong (58:25): Thank you. Thank you, Liz.