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Gwinnett Podcast: What comes after optimism?

What comes after optimism? When you get past the fear and the shock that stops you in your tracks what should businesses do next? In this episode, David Greer, publisher of Gwinnett Magazine talks to one of our hosts, Nate McGill, about how to take that next step and start planning for the rebound.

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Recorded at Story Road Studios in beautiful downtown Buford, Ga.

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Nathan McGill:

Hey guys, welcome to the Gwinnett podcast. I’m one of the hosts, Nathan McGill. And we are here having coffee and talking shop with David Greer, publisher Gwinnett magazine. How are you feeling, David?

David Greer:

We’ve got a lot more time to talk shop than we used to.

Nathan McGill: Right.

David Greer:

I mean we’re staying busy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s like, I don’t want to say that we’re scaled back, but you know the business environment’s scaled back so it’s when you want to do business and there’s nobody home, it makes it a little difficult. So that’s a little eerie kind of thing hanging over everything.

Nathan McGill:

Right, okay. So why don’t we do this. Talk to me like I am a business owner in Gwinnett County in the most unique situation to ever occur in our lifetime. Where’s my head at right now?

David Greer:

You know, I think that businesses are still in a state of shock because we don’t know what to do. We don’t have a pattern for this one, we don’t have a playbook for this one, we didn’t have a gradual downturn like you do sometimes when you have an economic recession. It was just so immediate and I think it was startling because 2020 was off to such a roaring beginning the economy was good, the confidence I thought was high. And I think that’s something that’s a little bit anecdotal for me to say, but the numbers prove it in our business, consumer confidence, business confidence, shapes a lot of decisions. I thought in 2020 the business confidence was certainly on the uptick and had been for the last year. So I think this thing just kind of came out of the blue and it took us all by surprise and I don’t think we quite know what to do.

Nathan McGill:

Okay, so here I am and I’m kind of a deer in the headlights. I’m frozen on what I should do next. How do I make sure that I don’t stay stuck?

David Greer:

You know what I think is important right now is to try to find some concrete steps for businesses to take because we as a group, entrepreneurs are very optimistic thinkers, right? I mean they had the self confidence and the optimism, creativity to try to create something out of nothing and start a business. And so right now we all can espouse all the need for optimism. We can cheer each other on, but at a certain point you’ve got to say, what’s next? Well, okay, I’m optimistic now what do I do? And what I

suggest that we do is think really hard about the rebound and what it is that we need to do to be prepared for the rebound.

David Greer:

And I think that’s the kind of the phase that we should be at as business owners right now. We should all be thinking rebound. I know the news is not there right now. We have to compartmentalize that. We have to have sympathy, we have to care. We have to worry. We have to protect. Yes, we absolutely have to do that. The same time, we need to prepare for the rebound because it will be coming and business owners need to be proactive, need to be ahead of the curve and now’s the time that we got to hunker down and think be ready for the rebound, take action so that we’re ready for the rebound. And I think to do that we’ve got a breakdown big picture, ethereal nature of business these days into some concrete step, because right now you look out longterm, you can’t see. You don’t know how the opportunities are going to be.

David Greer:

You’ve got to figure out how to look out there and keep the faith in the unknown and somehow translate that into a step you can take tomorrow. The way that I do that is something I call the corridor principle.

Nathan McGill:

Okay. So I remember this. I remember you talking about this idea a really long time ago, like the idea of this corridor or a long hall full of doors. Explain this to people because I think it’s going to help a lot of people move forward and remember who they are.

David Greer:

So like every entrepreneur has had this time where they had to walk forward in faith, right? They couldn’t see all the pieces ahead of them. You know, you could stand there and you can visualize and you can write business plans and projections and all that kind of thing.

But there’s going to come a point in time where you just have to move forward. And there’s this fear side of you that says, well, I don’t want to move forward until I know exactly what’s going to happen. But the odd thing is you can’t see what’s going to happen until you take some steps in blind faith. So I have this picture in my mind called the corridor principle. And if you can just imagine a long, long hallway that runs to infinity and on each side of the hallway are doors, I call them doors of opportunity. And you know that when you start walking down the corridor these doors of opportunity are going to open and you stand there at the beginning of this corridor looking down the hall and you’re thinking to yourself, which one of these doors is going to open? I want to see, I want to know what’s going to happen a month from now, three months from now, six months from now.

So I can plot my course. But the thing is you can’t, you can’t see, you can’t know what opportunities are going to open up and you just have to go on faith and start walking down the corridor. You have to start pursuing your goal. And what you have to do is trust your instincts. You have to know that you are prepared, you have a skill set, you’ve made decisions before, you are a competent business owner. So just start walking and when the doors start opening trust that you will be ready to react the same way

you have the last few years, the same way you did that helps you be a success that you have been. Those skills are going to be with you when those doors open. So right now, none of us can know when the recovery is going to be, when the rebounds going to be.

We don’t know that. We don’t know how deep a hole we’re digging. We don’t know all the obstacles that we’re going to face. We don’t know how long the setbacks going to be. We don’t know if all of our customers are going to make it through these times. But the thing is we can’t sit back on our haunches and do nothing. We have to move forward. And I think that’s the thing when you look at, you know, I’m very optimistic person and I try to cheer people on and be optimistic and look at the bright side, look at the glass half full. But there comes a point in time where you have to ask yourself what happens after optimism? And that’s what I’m telling you right now. Action happens, action follows optimism and you have to just start planning and you have to be thinking ahead about what the restart’s going to be like.

And if there’s an unknown, then go ahead and take a step forward and know that when the unknown thing gets resolved, you will be ready to handle it in that moment. But you can’t let the fear of the unknown paralyze you. And I think that’s what I want my fellow business colleagues to understand. Don’t stay paralyzed. All that time last year when we were so busy we couldn’t stop and work on marketing. We couldn’t stop and go through our inventory. We couldn’t stop and dream up new products and services because we didn’t have time. We were so busy running the day to day. We had no time. Well guess what? Now we have time.

Nathan McGill: That’s right.

David Greer:

So don’t sit there being paralyzed out of fear and not do those things that six months ago you were just wishing to have time to do.

Nathan McGill: Right.

David Greer:

And I think that’s the kind of watchword I think for today is that you just have to be careful not to be lulled or to stay in this current state of shock too long. You have to be able to compartmentalize your thoughts, compartmentalize the fears of the unknown, compartmentalize the scare and the worry over the health in our country. I mean, it’s not going anywhere because your car compartmentalize it. You’re still going to worry. I get that. But carve out a little time to do business planning. And I think that we have it now this really can be the ultimate confidence building time for you. How confident are you in your skillset? How confident are you in your business premise? Because if you are, this is a great time to build some, some ROI down the road. If you invest time right now in your business, invest time in the system of your business, the system that your business is.

Nathan McGill:

Okay, the system that your business is, what is that? How do I work on that?

David Greer:

Every entrepreneur knows this drill. You think of a business, you envision all the processes, you start. The business, starts building momentum. Next thing you know you’re busy as all get out. You’re working day and night, long, long, long hours and you don’t have time to step back and strategize anymore like you did when you first started.

Nathan McGill: Sure.

David Greer:

You wish you did, but you just don’t have the time. Well now we had that time. And what I’m seeing is, and what I’m sensing when I talk to some business folks is that it’s the shock of it all and the days that we’re in that is keeping us from being proactive. And what I want to do is just encourage business people to think now. Go ahead, think now about what it’s going to be like when we rebound.

And it’s the same sort of thinking that you used when you started your business. You know, a lot of people work for somebody else for a long time. They dream of opening their own business and they thought about it year over year. And then one day they did it and it was a very active time right before they opened. And right now should be an active time as you plot and plan for the rebound because the rebound will come and some people are saying that when it comes, we’re all going to be so pent up with cabin fever and just wanting to get out of the house and wanting to get things back to normal that there’s going to be this euphoric rebound.

Nathan McGill: Yeah.

David Greer:

With an energy that we’ve never seen before and I’m just saying, Hey, be ready for that. Don’t just don’t go to sleep right now. And sure, I think it’s a great time to unwind if you can, but I’m going to tell you this, I’ve not done much unwinding. I’ve been like really thinking creatively and plotting and planning for the future and trying to stay abreast of all the things that are happening and do my best to foresee what’s going to happen to the economy. But it takes extra motivation for me right now. But I’m dialing that up for myself and I just wanted to just take a minute to encourage everybody else in business to do the same. This like…

Nathan McGill: It’s good.

David Greer:

The thing is this does not feel like a sabbatical.

Nathan McGill:

No, it doesn’t feel like a sabbatical. But it’s kind of interesting though because what if somebody would have come and said, Hey, you know what? We want you to take some time for your business, not just you, but all the businesses are going to take a break and we’re going to send you some money and there’s going to be a program for this and you’re just going to take some time and think and plan on your business. And I don’t know of a CEO, business owner, business leader that wouldn’t have taken that deal. So why is it that we can’t see our present situation like that?

David Greer:

Now, I’ve been dealing with fear. I mean, fear of health for my family, for my clients, for our community, fear of the unknown. And that’s blocked me from saying, all right man this is a sabbatical. No, I’m fearing for longevity in my business. Sustainability in the business and that worry that comes with that. But what I’m channeling now is discipline, discipline to compartmentalize my thoughts, discipline to be grateful that I do have my health, my family has generally good health. So I want to I’ll try to take advantage of this time. Does that make sense?

Nathan McGill:

For sure. I’m just thinking the fact that all of these events have shut down across the country and racing is also one like not having NASCAR, but whenever there’s a wreck on the track, they force everybody to pit, right? So everybody goes into the pit stop and there’s a big difference between when the race is over and everybody’s just done and when everybody’s in pit.

Nathan McGill:

Because if you got extra time to fix your car and get ready for the rebound, that’s kind of a cool analogy.

David Greer:

Yeah. You know, I heard that analogy I think on like one of the news shows.

Nathan McGill: Oh really?

David Greer:

The guy was using the pit crew in the…

Nathan McGill: Interesting.

David Greer:

… pit lap kind of thing and I was thinking, a couple things about that. The pace car and slowing down the field at a gradual pace and coming to a leisurely stop in the pit is a good thing unless you’re the 10 cars that were in the crash, right?

Nathan McGill: Yeah, very true.

David Greer:

So I think right now we’re all trying to figure out, Hey man, am I like…

Nathan McGill: Which one  am I?

David Greer:

… 15 cars back and in the good or was I in the crash? I don’t really know.

Nathan McGill: Right.

David Greer:

So I think that’s one of the things am I, am I good?

Nathan McGill: Yeah.

David Greer:

All my tires good? My car good? Or did I just have a crash and not know it?

Nathan McGill:

For sure, for sure that’s what you do, right? You need to pat yourself down and Hey, if you’re not on fire, if you weren’t just in a crash, then you use the downtime to prepare for what the rebound is going to be. I think that’s been great. You’ve had a lot of great things to say. I think people really get a lot out of it. What’s your closing advice? What are you going to do next?

David Greer:

One of my favorite Bible verses is first Corinthians 14:40 and it says do things good and in order. And I think that you can’t get the cart before the horse and you got to break things down and do them in good order. So like during this downtime, what’s going to come first is having our entire team back full speed ahead serving clients. And I’ve got to think about what that’s like. You know, what’s it going to be like to go from this sort of frozen place in time to the restart? And let me concentrate on those steps. Let me get ready and let me do that good. So that when I go to the next thing after, I’m more ready for that.