I am not a huge fan of bargaining with vendors or any provider that shows up selling me something. I am sure that what people offer and sell has its value, and all are trying to do their job explaining the way their service or product will generate value.
However, in a crisis situation, there’s no other choice than talking directly and saying how things are evolving, and how your service can sustain the same level of operability and attention. In my case, as the CEO of a 50+ people business, during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a huge level of uncertainty and lack of financial incentives from the federal government in our HQs, as a company we have been preparing since 3 weeks ago for the worst scenarios.
We have to:
a) ensure cash flow and project it for the long-term and survival of the business and,
b) cut all current costs, and that demanded to renegotiate and reestablish our engagement models with current vendors.
So far, what I have realized as a great benefit coming from a context where businesses are made in-person and trust is a critical factor on delivering our value, the connections I have made in-person with all different actors and supporters of our business including customers, vendors, employees, family, have been critical to surviving through these hard times, even though there’s uncertainty on how much time we will spend doing business remotely and working from home
I had a hard time taking my phone and calling each one of our vendors to figure out a way where both of us can continue working for the long-term but sustaining the current situation due to the global impacts of the coming recession and the declared pandemic. And to my surprise, the response was very positive. A lot of flexibility and willingness to keep working together. I felt grateful and happy with all the arrangements we did and knew that the step we took was the best timing for this type of conversation.
My main takeaway is that being connected on the past more than just having an in-person chat, but really developing a wider relationship not only focused on the business but in a common ground, grabbing dinner or having a random talk about nothing and everything, was fundamental to establish a different perception and a respectful channel between them, myself and my business.
Without any doubt, I am pretty sure that today, all those relationships and connections are invaluable for what it is yet to come. Those connections can’t be broken, and the empathy already exists because of the way we initiate with our rapport, knowing that everyone is facing the same challenges. If we can’t help each other right now, there’s no opportunity of thinking in collaborating for the long-term. Is it the best way to help each other in the next 3 to 6 months when we have to do business for the last 18, 24 or 48 months? I think we can figure out ways of crossing through this valley of death together, and those honest and human relationships are part of the most important factors to sustain the “new normal” as a company.
I hope there might be a time where we can emulate the human connection we can get of starting to know someone in-person, something that can really replicate the way that vibe, gesture, and feelings are assimilated no matter there’s a screen or a device in front of us. But for now, I can say those connections are critical to surviving together any crisis.