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Transcript of:
Steve Kohler On Leading With Resilience During A Pandemic (#006)

Steve Wells: [00:00:00] This is Steve Wells 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:00:01] And I'm Jeffrey Feldberg. Welcome to the Sell My Business Podcast.

Steve Wells: [00:00:06] This podcast is brought to you by Deep Wealth. Are you a business owner who is wondering how to either grow your business, sell it, or both? Or maybe in today's environment, you're wondering how to make your business pandemic proof. Visit deepwealth.com to find out how you can master the strategies to grow and extract the deep wealth from your business.

Visit www.deepwealth.com. 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:00:28] Today, we are delighted to welcome Steve Kohler in our interview. Steve is a president of Ridge Global and has served in the past in a number of roles with its affiliates. Steve has previously served as the first president of Space Florida, a Florida special district focus on economic development within the aerospace economic sector.

And before that, Steve was the president of Winter Global Defense, a privately held company focused on military and non-military applications. Earlier, Steve served as senior vice president for corporate advisory services for a CB Richard Ellis, Pittsburgh. Steve has also served then Governor Tom Ridge as director of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania governor's action team.

 Steve, delighted to have you with us. Thank you so much. I know you're incredibly busy. 

You have quite the background and the experience and the insights. Before we get going, why don't you take a few moments and tell her community a bit about your story it's fascinating. 

Steve Kohler: [00:01:36] Thank you Jeffrey, and it's a pleasure to be with you today. My background and my history, my professional career has kind of moved back and forth, if you will, between private sector and public sector and in quasi-public sector service. So, I've had the. I guess the advantage and, the experience to see the vision of those, activities from the lens of those organizational structures.

And that includes large publicly traded companies on occasion and then smaller closely held businesses that were more entrepreneurial. My career began in the field of economic development and then, I spent a number of years doing classic economic development at a community wide level.

That, we were pretty effective in how we manage that activity so much so I guess that it got the attention of the then newly elected governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge and I got a call from him and his office to come down and talk to them about the prospects of joining that administration to lead the statewide economic development efforts for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at the time, which I accepted.

It was kind of like getting draft modus. So, I accepted the assignment and it was extraordinarily valuable for me in that career stop.  And then I moved from there to the private sector. A large company called CB Richard Ellis involved in corporate real estate, and from there then joined a smaller, more entrepreneurial company called Winter Global Defense, where I served led their efforts there.

Interesting little point about that company, a closely held company that the founder of, which was a man by the name of Jim Winter. He, had invented a product and he was a classic entrepreneur called the club, which was a steering wheel locking device. Many of us remember that at the time he built, a real high level of brand awareness for his relatively small companies, very successful. It was one of the reasons I was interested in being able to join and support that effort because he had built that company from the ground up to very successful enterprise on a, on a global scale, and then left that one day to have a real fun period in my career, which was back to the semi-public sector.

Joining a new organization created by a statute in the state of Florida called Space Florida as its first  President and  CEO and partly charged with standing the organization up, building their strategic business plans, and then move fast forward to where I am currently rejoining Governor Ridge as the currently is the president of Ridge Global based here in Washington DC, and providing business advisory services to our clientele, which range in size from very small to very large clients.

Steve Wells: [00:04:14] Steve, you know, you have such a unique background in that you have the government and you have the business experience.  Today we were going to really concentrate most of our discussion on the Corona virus   and what's happening and how businesses are going to adjust. So, I’d be interested to hear, you've probably been through some recessions.

But how do you view what we're seeing given your background in the government and the business in any kind of general thought or experience that you've noticed through this? 

Steve Kohler: [00:04:44] Yeah, Stephen, thank you. I'll, I'll give you one comparison that because of my age, is somewhat relevant. Years ago, when I was just beginning my career, I can recall the economic conditions in the U S at the time.

We had inflation running at about 12%. The community I was living in at the time had an unemployment at almost 18.5% and interest rates were approaching 14% for commercial use, and my business focus at the time was economic development. Take a very distressed community and do your best with your organization to attract and build job opportunities and growth.

I can recall at that time, seeing lines of several hundred people standing in line at businesses that were looking to hire maybe six or seven people at the time, and there was a sense of, it was purely economic and in that moment that this desperation, if you will, within the community. And not hopelessness, but real concern, genuine concern.

You could see it in the streets. Fast forward to where we stand today. I see similar, maybe even more acute because it's public health and it's a healthcare that is totally aside from the health risks that we all read about. It has totally put the economy globally into a state of convulsion. So, there's a little bit of similarity there that I see with that experience.

Although I would say this one is much more acute given where we are so many years later, the technologies that we rely on. The flip side is I see hope. I think that because of the way we've advanced from a technological standpoint, our capacity to react quickly, adjust and make course corrections is far more efficient today than it was, in this case 35 to 40 years ago. 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:06:37] Steve, some great insights, and you mentioned hope. And I know at Deep Wealth hope is everything. So if you put yourself in the shoes of a business owner who has been struggling through all of this, has found a way just to keep on moving things forward to have the business live another day, and now we start to look at getting things back to the new normal, whatever that new normal is. Based on what you've seen and where you are today, what would be some strategies and some insights that a business owner can put into play to get business going again? 

Steve Kohler: [00:07:19] Yeah, great question.

I think that there are a number of things and hope and having that capacity to recognize that there is a future at the end of this and having, and most entrepreneurs that I've worked with and we advise currently have that capacity embedded in their genetic makeup. So there, there always, there's always a need to be adjusting and managing a business.

In a way that you're able to deal with the, the changes in the competitive landscape, but now you have to deal with this effects of this public health emergency and COVID-19 so some of the things that, that we're seeing are the need to create a business dynamic that fully embeds this need for adequate awareness of social distancing and planning for that kind of environment.

And how does that affect my business? So obviously we're doing this discussion today from these various remote locations. I see that continuing in some fashion into the future where if you're an organization that has physical space needs, there may be some alternating days for, employees to work on site versus remotely and being able to structure the business to accommodate that.

If you're a small business, and I see it in the food service industries right now, they are adjusting as we speak on the fly to be able to accommodate clients, maintain viability and becoming very creative on how they, they do so, with a, a strong recognition and a clear eye towards. Maintaining public health, expectations for their employees and for their customers.

So, I think that strategically, companies as we speak, are sitting down and formulating their own back to work to accommodate this kind of capability. And some of our clients are coming to us and asking for some advice or counsel on what we would see in that area, like what they should be doing, if they have large facilities where numbers of employees come in, are there certain types of set adjustments to their sensors, for security that could be made that could help them on a public health basis?

Should they be redesigning as an example, the layouts of conference rooms to go circular tables versus rectangular create more spacing? Do they need to have, as I said earlier, alternating days of showing up at that location to minimize deaths? The business owners have to take that into their calculus, is how they go forward and continue to manage and service the needs and interests of their clients.

Steve Wells: [00:09:56] I as well as Steve had been through, a lot of economic cycles in business and personal, business and the economy. 

And you know, those difficult times there that are pruning times in the middle of that, it was not fun. But when I've looked back, I’ve seen really tremendous amount of growth personally and in my understanding of business.

I wonder now you're in touch with so many different people. How do you get a sense of that? Are we still too much in the middle or do you see, any benefit of, of what we're going through? 

Steve Kohler: [00:10:26] I do, and you know, you don't like to say that, you know, usually you see the people that really shine and emerge in these kinds of events of desperation.

And, you know, I can recall, you know, look at it. What happened in the immediate aftereffects of 911 it's seared into our consciousness. This kind of occurred in a little bit more of a slow motion effect, but it's the same dynamic as we sit today because the reaction is not, is, is not unlike what we saw instantly occur in 911 in New York, Washington, central Pennsylvania, and then globally with the recognition that this was a virus of its own type that we had to contend with. And so whole businesses emerged and people rose to the top to help lead and understand in that regard. I think we're in the same place here. I think, however, this time there's a much more, extensive or pervasive human quality. Because it affects everybody. This hasn't been a specific geographic location.

It's been across the board. It hasn't been whether you're ethnically in this category or that category, it's been across the board. There's been, it's been indiscriminate in how it's applied. So I think the value is that it's creating the environment that everyone, top to bottom managers, employees, leaders, clergy, whatever you want to call it, have to recognize and make the modification to adjust this. And it fully integrates your professional world and your personal world regardless of the type of work that you do. And so that, I think the balancing of, as I said, I've been on a few of these calls where our new member of the family, which is a, you know, a puppy, a dog has participated.

And then I've seen other people who it's made more high-profile individuals, much more human. Because now you're seeing them in their home setting and maybe they're standing there. If someone, you know, a child walks behind and it adds an element of humility and humbleness to the, humanity, if you will.

So, I think that that's a real valuable piece of what COVID-19 is brought to the global community. And I think that'll, that'll in embed itself, if you will, and how all businesses, not just small, medium sized go about conducting their business. It's not, I don't think, I think there'll be a level of comfort.

I hope that there's a level of compassion now they approach the bottom line. 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:12:51] Steve, you've done this as a leader, both in business as well as in politics. At Deep Wealth, we call it the ability to pivot so you can profit and a lot of people pivoted and profit. Sometimes they don't realize it that they're doing it in good times.

It may not be as necessary, but in challenging times in a pandemic time, it's absolutely crucial. And what we've been talking about here at Deep Wealth is if you want a pandemic proof your business. 

You were forced to right now; you didn't choose it. You can't choose what happens around you, but you can choose how you respond to something.

And it'd be interesting to hear from you the importance of the ability to pivot and profit   as a business. And why business owners have to start thinking that way if they're going to be here for tomorrow and the foreseeable future 

Steve Kohler: [00:13:52] A great question and set up there. Jeffrey, I'll tell you this. I think that this pandemic response, I see another parallel that we're in the midst of living through as we speak, and that's the cyber vulnerabilities. With respect to hacking and both of the cyber issues that every business has to take into account. Although it doesn't seem to get the same level of attention at times, but it has similar kinds of economic effects.

So up until the emergence of this pandemic, the need for businesses across the board, public, private, governments and otherwise to focus on their level of resiliency as it applies to cybersecurity was necessary and apparent. And in our view, was pressing  businesses either through regulatory control or from the need to maintain a level of competitiveness in their market to become more cyber resilient and to be able to look at cyber resiliency and planning for that in a way that would be to avoid the infection as it were in your business from a cyber perspective and any potential compromise that may create with respect to profitability.  And so, a number of businesses in the whole industry merged to support and provide services to clients around that area.

Us being one of them. And then you move to where we are now with this pandemic. It has all the markings, if you will, of a pervasive global cyber-attack. And so, I can tell you this, that I remember years ago we were doing risk advisory work aligned with the insurance industry around cyber. And we were meeting with one of the large insurers in this case, it was Lloyd's, at their corporate location in London, and asked the question of the leadership at Lloyd's, what keeps you awake?

This was five years ago. They said two things, global cyber event and pandemic.  That comment is not lost on me. I can tell you for sure, because here we are. So there's pandemic proofing the business and the thought process in, in my view, that businesses will now be looking at as they work through this pandemic and beyond, is not unlike what they're having to deal with on cyber.

And so, there's a little bit of a parallel there. And I think that some of the lessons learned might be if we look at how we approach our cyber resiliency and apply some of those techniques. The pandemic exposure, it may help us. 

Steve Wells: [00:16:20] So if I hear you, I'm obviously preparing for any type of disaster, whether it's a pandemic or cyber is obviously beneficial, and we don't really know what those disasters or problems are going to be.

We may not even be able to prepare for the solution. So how do we get ourselves ready to paraphrase a popular book Antifragile. How do we adapt to that? 

Steve Kohler: [00:16:48] Well, here, here's what I think is going to happen in part, and we at Ridge Global, this is part of what we do.

We provide this kind of advisory work for our clients. There are within the cyber realm, if I use that parallel, there are frameworks that have been established that are used as baselines for many businesses. In the case of cyber, in US it's NIST, standard institutes, baseline framework for cyber that isn't used as a baseline to build resiliency platforms that are applied to all kinds of industries. We go to what we're experiencing right now at the pandemic, and here we see briefings that are coming out daily on what's the federal government doing, where each of the state's doing in terms of reacting to this. And one of the issues that they're having them to take a look at is, is better management of supply chains.

And resiliency to be able to prepare for this. So, I think all the lessons learned, and there will be many documents prepared on how the federal government, how some of the States reacted to this situation, including the post event investigations on the source and cause and communication. All of those lessons are going to come in my view, and I'm going to result in pandemic preparation frameworks that will be then laid out for, for the business community and for people in governments to embrace, if you will, or at least look to adopt, to embed, if you will, into their business operating plans. So that at some point in the future, when a company, and if you're a publicly traded company, you're familiar with the Sarbanes Oxley Act, and the need to be able to satisfy your financial controls.

There may be a time when you have a similar cyber act. It's a version of that. And then ultimately you have someone who can attest to your level of preparedness as results as it relates to a pandemic or public health emergency. And there may be standards that will be put in place for people to adopt and have ready to go.

So at least they can be as prepared as they can based on the experience. It may take some time to get there, but I think if you're managing the risk of an enterprise, you have to take that into account so that your insurers that provide you with general liability, business interruption, directors and officers, and all the lines of insurability that you need, they're going to look at how you protect against your risk exposure in order to determine the level of policy cover and the policy form.

And so, in our world, it kind of relates to how do you manage the risks. Pandemic is now at the forefront. It's not in everybody's front of front of mind consciousness that it has a direct and an indirect at the same time effect on our ability to conduct business. 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:19:32] Steve, you bring up an excellent point of managing risk, and oftentimes business owners tend to overlook the power that effective communications can have.

So, I'm wondering from your experience in both the public and private sectors. 

In a challenging time, in a pandemic, what kinds of strategies that should a business owner be considering as it comes to communications and communications to whom? 

Steve Kohler: [00:20:04] Well, we're a firm believer in absolute transparency and the need to be able to be out front, both with your public face and your internal looking communications to your organization.

We go through this oftentimes there are so much pressure to maintain protection, reputational protection, brand protection for businesses that in some cases, they'll overlook the need to address a problem front on. And our, our approach is always, you need to be able to be out front and your leadership should be able to admit when there's been a problem or a challenge, but be able to convey what the strategy is going forward. So, you're, you're managing an event that creates a risk exposure in real time. So that's one of the things that we look at fairly closely as we advise firms as they are looking at creating resiliency plans that they include a corporate emergency response in various aspects, and they all plug into one comprehensive strategy that allows for that kind of, in our view, transparency inward and outward and as much as they can without compromising any kind of  legal concerns. But that's the fundamental takeaway that we see with regard to managing that part of the risk.

 Steve Wells: [00:21:28] Not all of it is going to fall on the shoulders of a leader. you know, and that leader is going to have to instill confidence in their people around them. And at the same time, we've spoken to some, and while they put on a strong face, they've got to get away, I guess go, whoa you know, how do I recover? I've got to be building my batteries back up. It's a tough thing to be a leader. 

Steve Kohler: [00:21:48] You know what, Steve, you're right. In fact, I can recall early on in this pandemic, and I thought it was one of the better short YouTube style videos that a CEO did, and it was the CEO of one of the major cruise lines, I can't recall his name right now.

But he had to get out there and he had to be able to make a statement both for his employees, but also to the community, knowing that he was just at the beginning of having to do whatever they need to do as a company and as an organization to ensure that they are protecting against this kind of prep.

And this kind of risk and what a tough assignment that is. But I saw a real leadership in the way this person stood up and made those comments. I mean, he did it in a very effective way. The messaging was, was direct. It was an admission that this is very difficult and that they were working their way through, but they wanted everyone to know about shareholders, potential consumers of their, cruise services and others that they were doing everything they could to make this work. 

So, I thought that demonstrated, to your point, really in a very difficult time, strong leadership.  It's easy to lead when times are good. But the real leaders that that show well in my view and really demonstrate the capacities when it's tough. When it's really in difficult times, like we're finding now, that's why you're seeing certain people, in my view, emerge and really can manage. The game, slows down for them in the throes of a problem like this. And that comes in this case, it came through on that, that message. 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:23:25] Steve at Ridge Global, I’m wondering what's the back-room banter that you're hearing both as a company, but also with the business owners, the CEOs, the leaders that you're talking with? What would a day in the life be like in terms of the types of conversations that you're having?

And I asked that as an. Insight to share with the community, what you're seeing that's not working from a leader or business owner and what is working that we can share that out there so that people can take that for themselves and, and bring that through to, their employees, their community, society in general that they're serving. 

Steve Kohler: [00:24:11] Well, I can tell you that a little bit of the inside scoop is that we've become extraordinarily busy over the past several weeks, more so than I thought, both interestingly, from a prospective client interests, looking to, either modify their existing business line to be able to accommodate the concerns that have emerged in this pandemic, which is, you know, it's got two purposes, one is a normal position to be in, assuming they have a value to bring. And then secondarily they can see there is a potential business opportunity that helps them to grow. So, it's kind of a win-win. So, we're seeing a lot of that. We're also looking at companies in some of the back-room discussions that we've had is been on what the strategies are going back.

And I think we talked about that a little bit earlier. What, what is it we need to do differently today, but to be able to conduct our business at a level of profitability and resiliency because our focus tends to be over on the resiliency side in a way that we can maintain the momentum that we were enjoying before this event occur and be able to take it into account.

Believe it or not, some of the things that we get involved, international based interests. So, there's this whole dynamic about, I'll call it political instability caused or made more apparent through this pandemic. And so, it's how do we look at the global economic environment for our business in a way that addresses some of the things that we've seen, countries that have been able to react pretty well if we've got interest there versus other ones. So we look at those kinds of things and we talk about, you know, what is it that needs to change in the way some of the clients address some of the markets if they wanted to pursue.

And you know, looking inward at our own operation is how we will conduct our employees to advise clients in a way that enables us to maintain a level of responsibility and responsiveness around this change in environment instead of face on meetings. How we do this for some of the things that we do for our clients.

Steve Wells: [00:26:20] You mentioned a little while back that one of the, side benefits of, of this has been, somewhat of a humility that you've seen. I'm thinking about consumer behavior. I mean, there's a lot going on now. You see a lot of families together. You see a lot of people outside walking.

You see, almost, I know not all businesses need a, a non-consumer kind of mentality, but you see, you know, looking at, at their values and wondering, you know, what purchases they may make or may not and some of that could be more difficult for some businesses. And I know you probably don't know the answer, but maybe you've heard from some of your clients and people, what do they think of this consumer behavior? Will this last, will it not? 

Steve Kohler: [00:26:57] I'll give you my, a part of my observation, and this is a personal observation based on, you know, where I've been working out out of my home office for the past month, what I've learned that I now know neighbors, not by virtue of their profession and their company, but because they're my neighbors, even though they may have led, you know, in the case of a couple of them, you know, very high performing people.

But when you take away those trappings, and you only see somebody on  on an intermittent basis, you don't really know them. So what I've found is I'm getting to know people, not just on a professional basis, but much more on a personal basis, which helps me anyway, personally understand.

You know, how they, how they can comport themselves on a personal level and how that relates to what they were doing professionally. It's interesting to me. It's, it's fascinating. It puts people in the same spot. So, somebody who may be the CEO of a Fortune 50 company now standing online at the local, grocery store with anybody else, and they're having a conversation that might not otherwise ever happen.

And it's interesting you learn that there are people who there's dignity in every position I've found, and this is amplifying that perspective. And so, I think that that's what I mean by the humility effect. I think it'll help good leaders become better and it'll help people who are in supportive roles become better at what they do because they'll have perspective that they might not otherwise have. 

Steve Wells: [00:28:26] You know, it's funny you can't see this because it's audio, but how last night I was doing some domestic things that I normally wouldn't do and I'm on my forehead and a vacuum cleaner just had an argument.

So those are the types of things that, that you're talking about. Our lives are a little different. 

Steve Kohler: [00:28:45] I know that it is, you know, by the power of non-visual. But I, you know, my hands. Are marked up a little bit for no other reason than they've got puppy teeth marks all over them. 

But that's, that's kind of to the point of where I'm getting, we use the word humility, but it does become apparent that it's a huge value add. And I think, you know, you can, you can look at this, a global event. It didn't hit one country or the other, it is a global event. 180 plus or whatever the country number is now.

It doesn't really matter, but it's affected everybody and you can look at this and say, well, you know what? What kind of global events like that have occurred in our, in our history as you, as a humanity like this, and you go back a hundred years of the Spanish flu, but we didn't have this level of communication back then.

We didn't have the instantaneous capacity to reach anyone on the planet at any time using a mobile device. In any language translated or otherwise, and so that's kind of really brought it down to a level that I don't think we've ever seen and hopefully to take a bad situation and get some benefit out of it.

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:29:51] Steve has been interesting, some of the examples and  the wisdom and insights that you've shared with us really highlight how a challenging situation, how a pandemic, yes, it has negative side effects to it, but there's also positive things that come out of that. You know, unfortunately in the popular media, it's all gloom and doom and depressing if we're open about it.

But let's look to the positive. As painful as this might be for people, for business owners, for communities, for neighbors. From a business perspective, from a business owner's perspective, what should be some of the positives that I'm looking to come out of this pandemic with that will forever stay with me and help me as a business owner. What do you think that would be? 

Steve Kohler: [00:30:43] Well, I'll tell you right off the top of my head, I believe that the technological innovation, we're going to go through in a period of time right now where it's going to happen extremely quickly. Spurned on, if you will, by the conditions of this pandemic.

So, if you think about applying certain capacities in the world of artificial intelligence in a way that the benefits. everyone moving forward. Now this may sound a little bit crazy, but as an example, if you're into, and I'm involved on a board with a company that does some pretty interesting things with software as it relates to the gaming.

So, if you think about it in terms of the entertainment world and the effects it has with the lack of the ability of crowds to gather, and what's this going to mean in the way of how we take our entertainment? So, I suspect that you're going to see innovation that's going to make that much more interactive.

So if you take a look at what's going on in the world of gaming and the world of entertainment  in the world of say, sports venues, and I can see where you're going to see businesses emerge and kind of bring those entities together in a way that it becomes much more commercially viable so that people will still experience those kinds of things without putting themselves at risk.

So, I think that one of the good things that's going to come out of this is the level of innovation and creativity and the use of some of these concepts as applied to make things safer and better for the consuming public to take advantage of. And I think that that will be one thing. I think it may also help us  in the area of government, you know, this is a situation where it's going to put all of the governments in a spot where they're going to become much more focused on what we need to do to facilitate preparedness so that we have the ability to manage these kinds of events in the future without crippling the economy.

Or at least managing in a way that allows for these kinds of things to, to continue to, to operate and be, and be healthy at the same time. So, I think those are the kinds of things that I see coming out of this. The innovation, speed and business will adapt and embrace some of that to be able to accommodate this new normal.

Steve Wells: [00:33:03] You've, you've been involved in government and the private business sectors. How do you think the government's role, and then when you say governments is state and there's federal, there's all kinds of, gee, do you think it's been good? Do you think it's going to change in the future?

Like you said, and what ways does it need to be more involved, less involved or, right. You got any thoughts on that? 

Steve Kohler: [00:33:23] Well, you know, I, I think it probably covers the entire waterfront in that respect. I mean, you, the, there'll be examples where it's been pretty effective. There'll be others where it hasn't been as effective.

You know, I've always believed in my time in serving in the public sector everyone who's there, regardless of their political background, they typically, for the most part, people that were involved in the administrative side of government, not the political side of, of elections, and some of the administrative side are always trying to do what they think is the right thing.

So, I think that this experience will highlight those that have been effective and it'll recognize some of the shortcomings of those that haven't been so effective or that have attempted to do some things. So, I think the good that will come out of that. Is it, there should be some baselines that will be established that'll make it a little bit more, I'll say predictable, but a little bit more, easier to take on the part of people having to deal with their leadership and government determining how they will conduct their day by day activities based on a particular public health emergency. If there's a little bit more predictability, if that's the right word, and I think there's less panic, there's less panic, then there's, there's a little bit more, thoughtful consideration of what the environment is.

You know, in the beginning, you may recall there was a bit of pain. There were people were panicking, and justifiably so. There's, there was not enough information. So, I think that's, that's what I would see coming out of this. That may be helpful. Lessons learned kind of approach on the government side.

And that's all layers to your point, from the local to the regional, to the state, to the federal in this case. You have to rely on those local governmental leaders. My experience has always been that because. They have eyes on the, on the activity at the ground level, and you have to respect their capacity to understand their communities better than, or as well as anybody can.

So that's, that's what I would see on that scale. 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:35:18] Steve, speaking of government, and you're in a perfect position to be able to address this. There's been government assistance programs that have come out and, and I suspect that's just the beginning, not the end. As we work our way through the pandemic back to business, as normal, how does a business start or where would a business start if they haven't already, in terms of finding out how the government assistance might be able to help them, where, where they should look, what they can do? I know it's going to vary depending on the level of, of government and the State that you're in. Any general kinds of advice that you can give? 

Steve Kohler: [00:36:00] Yeah, I'll tell you what my opinion is. Having worked in that realm and on both sides, both on the side of whether it's a business or a nonprofit organization that was seeking the assistance either at the federal or state or regional level, and being able to comply with guidelines and write grant applications and so forth.

In my view, it is an art form. It always has been. There's not a real science, even though our guidelines, and that's the challenge which we see right now. Well intended Cares ACT here with getting, resources out to the community and growing through, in this case, the SBA and the banks throughout the region.

But the reality is this, those organizations, private or otherwise and have experienced and how to manage through that artful dynamic are more effective at getting the approval. And that's what we've seen a little bit of evidence of that. And so, some of the advice is that this tends to be a process, although the conveyance of the information at the first stages suggests that it's relatively simple.

The reality of it is it tends to be a little bit more complex because once that opportunity for the distribution of those resources to small businesses is made, There's an infrastructure on the government side that manages that and then manage that in a way that Has certain conditions and standards and have to be met.

And it's really a challenge where the small businesses, the very smallest one of the organizations that we would, that I would be suggesting here for very small companies to take advantage of it and the small business development centers in the US that are a network of SBDCs. In every state in the country.

And they have people that are, that is their job, their consultants that are on board, that are, have business experience, that advise other business leaders on how to access these kinds of programs and funds. Not just the Cares Act, but others. And so that would be one step. we've worked with those organizations as a company in the past on cyber issues.

And they can be very effective and they're networked in crossing the entire country. So if I'm a very small business, that would be one of the places I'd go because these are people that understand this dynamic. They can step into this Willy Wonka machine known as the bureaucracy and be able to access the funding in a way that takes that pain away.

I always, as an economic developer, took the position that we need to take the friction points away from that private sector business. They should not have to be burdened with having to understand how the bureaucracy works simply to access the capital to continue their business. There are organizations, either economic development organizations or small business development centers who have professionals that this is what they do and they're paid to do this kind of work.

And in many cases, those services are available to the community. It's just a matter of finding out where to go. So that'd be one, Jeffrey, that I would say at a small business to take a look at. The other ones that are a little bit larger, they tend to retain professional firms. Sometimes they are accounting firms, and many of those have a specialization that some of the kind of things that we have done on occasion where we understand how some of these programs work and can help advise clients on how to go through those.

Steve Wells: [00:39:16] As we start to wrap this up, is there anything that you would want to tell businesses that we haven't really, addressed, in the talk that you, that you think would be helpful in this time? 

Steve Kohler: [00:39:26] Well, I would highlight the things that we take a look at at this point with all of our advisory work and the areas to be mindful of as they move forward.

Resiliency as it relates to cyber. It's an important aspect of everybody's business in this day and age. Just to be mindful of the need to maintain a level of security. And some of that is now driven by law and otherwise, and that will now include, consideration of any pandemic after effects future and otherwise, and not to forget.

Some of the experiences that we've learned in the last six weeks to two months plus going forward in terms of putting that perspective on what's really important, both for the business to be viable, but also for the need to be able to recognize the value of the people that work with you and those that you work for.

So, we talked and we started out talking about the effects of this pandemic and creating a level of humility amongst many. And I think that holds true. Hopefully some of that sticks and stays, and that will, in my view, will help, the leaders of these businesses have, both feet firmly on the ground as they make decisions for their business that, take into account all of these things, both those for the bottom line and those for the human side of the business.

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:40:51] Resiliency, humility, some excellent advice. As we round things up and as we like to ask all of the guests on the podcast, 

Knowing what you know, if you're a business leader and you can only do one thing as you look to the future as we look forward, what would that one thing be?

 Steve Kohler: [00:41:13] Preparation, you know, as in as much as I can say, preparation and planning. It's, it would be the one thing that you'd want to be able to do going forward. Then as you look at how we're going to conduct our business, we're going to plan for these kinds of events in as much as we can, so that we have some capacity to absorb that shot if and when it comes 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:41:35] Well said, and for our community if they want to follow up with you or learn more about what you're doing, Steve where can they go? Where would you direct them to, to find you out there? 

Steve Kohler: [00:41:48] Well, we have a website, a ridgeridgeglobal.com. 

And we have a number. It's (202) 833-2008. We do, and believe it or not, we've had clients that will call leave a voicemail even today. And so, we clean those up and usually if they can find us on the website or we're there and then we can be contacted that way. 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:42:12] Terrific. 

Well, listen, thank you so much for your insight and your wisdom today.

I appreciate it. 

Steve Wells: [00:42:18] Thank you, Steve. 

Steve Kohler: [00:42:19] Thank you. Thank you both for having me. I enjoyed it.


Steve Kohler On Leading With Resilience During A Pandemic (#006)
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