InSight

Exit and Growth Strategies for Middle Market Businesses

Another New Normal?

By Jim Gerberman | Mar 30, 2020

I have the privilege of being part of a group of business owners and leaders who meet routinely to help each other with issues and challenges related to pursuing their business and personal purpose. At a recent monthly meeting, one of our team presented each of our members with shirts that he had discovered during a trip to Hawaii. He shared the “Red Dirt Shirt” story as an example of a resilient business owner that had found success from a catastrophic event.

On September 11, 1992, the Hawaiian island of Kauai was devastated by Hurricane Iniki. According to their company website:  “Among the businesses affected was our small screen print shop. All of our white shirts waiting to be printed were drenched with water and stained with Red Dirt blown in from the storm. Instead of throwing out the shirts, we decided to dry them as they were. The T shirts, stained with the ultra iron rich Red Dirt soil and printed with Hawaiian based themes became a hit with locals and visitors alike.”  Today, the Red Dirt Shirts company has seven locations in Hawaii, Arizona and Utah and produces and sells more than 100,000 shirts per month.

Rather ironically, on the same day that our team received these shirts, an article in The New York Times reported that “China Identifies New Virus Causing Pneumonialike Illness”. Three days later, on 11 January, Chinese state media reported the first known death from an illness caused by this coronavirus.

A relevant question for each of us:  “Is there a Red Dirt Shirt story for you and your business in this time of unprecedented uncertainty?”  And:  “How might one identify and pursue such opportunities?”

I really like the suggestions recently shared by Mark Cuban:

  • Experiment with new ideas. Since you have holes in your schedule, it’s a great time to experiment with new lines of business and see what sticks. He also recommended brainstorming not only with your peers, but also with your competitors. They are all in the same boat. Try to figure out the best way to reignite the industry.
  • Really get to know your employees. Take the time to understand the individual circumstances of your employees and their families.
  • Clean up parts of the business you’ve been neglecting or haven’t had time for. Control what you can control. Rather than focusing on how bad it is, focus on how you can use this time to connect with your future customers.

A final thought from an article shared by a friend: “Crises teach us that CEOs aren’t expected to be as right as they are expected to be engaged”.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay engaged.


3 Responses to “Another New Normal?”

  1. Hello Jim. Just want to tell you this is a fantastic article. I also want you to know that Don and I have two “red shirts” from Hawaii. (A door closes, a window opens.) Love, love the story – we entrepreneurs will find a way. Derek is transcribing podcasts, and his wife, Mandy, has a multi=marketing business (Arbonne) filling products in bags to give to hospitals — and I am praying. My business (medical transcription) is no longer in the U.S However, I still have the skill to help Derek transcribe and edit the Podcasts. (Editors are desperately needed but all this can be done at home.) Please give Candy a hug for me — 6 feet apart? We as a nation of small businesses will find a way. We always have, we always will. Thanks again, Jim.

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