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Finding "Great Opportunity" in a Crisis

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Amid the COVID-19 battle, it is hard to find words that effectively capture this unparalleled time we are facing in our world. As the virus rapidly unfolded these past weeks, it has been staggering to bear witness to the impact it has had on our communities and businesses. What began as a sickness a world away, has exploded into a ravaging pandemic, unlike anything we’ve seen in over a century. What we do as business leaders in this critical moment will define who we are and what we stand for, at our core. In the words of Albert Einstein, “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.”

As we navigate the most disruptive time to business and industry in our generation’s history, let us look back to another generation, the Greatest Generation, for guidance. During World War II, the economy and workforce were significantly impacted as men were sent away to fight. Women, who had previously been discouraged from working outside the home, were now hired to take over manufacturing industry positions on assembly lines, and in factories and shipyards. Rosie the Riveter became a cultural icon as existing companies changed their lines from consumer goods to materials in support of the war effort. Like that great generation before us, we must turn challenges into opportunities and define our new normal as we face an invisible enemy.

As hospital staff battle COVID-19, once again, U.S. manufacturers are pivoting to support our front lines. General Motors and Ford have joined forces with General Electric to begin building ventilators to supply hospitals around the nation who are in short supply of the life-sustaining equipment. Distilleries – from small mom-and-pop gin makers to the world’s biggest brewery, Anheuser-Busch – have begun producing hand sanitizer, rather than spirits, to supply our communities with the now elusive germ-killing elixir. And Michigan-based office furniture company Steelecase is now using its factories to make protective medical equipment like facemasks, face shields, and partitions for hospitals.

Whether you are a small business or a large corporation, we all must become part of the fight. Monetary donations are one of the simplest, most effective ways to help. However, with cash flow a serious concern for many businesses, untapped resources are also powerful tools to support our communities in this desperate time of need. For example, our company has volunteered the use of our supply trucks and drivers to local emergency management teams. With our office staff working from home, the bulk hand sanitizer used for dispensers in our now mostly vacant headquarters is being donated, and chocolate Easter treats meant for staff will be dropped off at a community children’s charity. Lastly, we are working with our supply chain contacts to try to secure much-needed medical supply ammunition for our first responders and hospital personnel.

Rosie the Riveter taught us that “We Can Do It!” This is our generation's moment to come together, using our creativity and resources to support the fight. What do you see as your “great opportunity” in this crisis?