The Transformative CEO Community™


The CEO Forum Group, founded in 2007, is a Tier 1 media and marketing company focused exclusively on CEOs. Our mission is to disseminate CEO wisdom to elevate business, the economy and society. Our platforms include: The CEO Show, a nationally syndicated radio show with 600,000 weekly listeners (cited as the #1 podcast for CEOs in America); The CEO Forum, the quarterly magazine “by CEOs for CEOs” received exclusively by the top 10,000 CEOs in America; and CEO Connections.


The CEO Forum Group has become recognized as “The Transformative CEO Community” for its efforts in helping to build success, one CEO at a time, by sharing the best practices, driving job creation and expanding innovation and value throughout the world. Founder Robert Reiss is credited with coining the term ‘Transformative CEO’ which is defined as someone who creates new value that reinvigorates a company, reinvents an industry or reboots society. 

This Week On The CEO Forum

“This issue of The CEO Forum magazine, “Building Business Post-Pandemic”,  is I believe the single most important publication for CEOs during this summer. It covers all the core issues CEOs need to focus on today: healthcare, the pandemic, racial justice, innovation, gender equity, economics, and leading through crisis.”
Edie Fraser, CEO, Women Business Collaborative

8.28.20 “First, internalize and reframe the topic of unconscious bias not only from the perspective of race, ethnicity, and gender, but overall. This is foundational for any high performing culture. Second, encourage and put in place programs and support systems which openly embrace diversity and inclusion and belonging for everyone. Third, establish, track, and manage outcomes with role model leadership, transparency, and adaptability. The old adages are true – inspect what you expect, and you can only improve what you measure.”

Anne Chow, CEO, AT&T Business

8.19.20 “All people want to feel a sense of belonging and safety at work, and it’s our job as leaders to create positive changes within our organizations to foster it. This year underscored just how important it is to up the humanity, support one another and take action to create a diverse and inclusive work environment. At Prosek, we are on an endless journey to widen our understanding and grow alongside our people. One way we demonstrate this through action is our employee “open mic” storytelling workshops. Our employees share an unexpected story about who they are. It educates us all about the often unknown dimensions of our colleagues and brings us together in a truly meaningful way.”

Jennifer Prosek, Founder & CEO, Prosek Partners

8.10.20 “We need to be the change we want to see in the world and focus on value as well as our values. Consumers want to buy from companies that reflect their own beliefs. Today, every company must focus on ‘value-based buying’ and commit to raising the bar. That begins and ends with how you lead your teams. While our customers bring our mission to life, it is made possible by the employees who exemplify, embody and reinforce our values every day.”

Gina Drosos, CEO, Signet Jewelers

8.6.20 “Culture, diversity, and inclusion are critically important. It is both the smart and the right thing to do. When you create an environment where employees can bring 100% of themselves to work every day, we see that they are able to perform better and be more innovative. We are seeing this really shift our engagement and retention of amazing talent.”

Mike Kaufmann, CEO, Cardinal Health

8.4.20 “It’s easy to confuse activity with results when focusing on diversity. Nice words or hiring a Diversity Leader are fine but shouldn’t be confused with changing the dynamic. For example, if 20% of your people are diverse, the only way to increase this is by hiring at a greater rate than 20%, and the diverse people leaving is less than 20%. Track both every 6 months and you will see progress.”

David M. Cote, former Chairman and/or CEO of Honeywell, current Executive Chairman of Vertiv Holdings Co and author of Winning Now, Winning Later: How Companies Can Win in the Short Term While Investing in the Long Term (HarperCollins Leadership, June 30, 2020)

8.3.20 “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter”…really like this quote by MLK. These times really require bold leadership to ensure we don’t let the opportunity of the moment slip into the sunset..It’s more than just words espousing or reaffirming corporate values, but rather strong willingness to change through specific actions…..Acknowledging clearly that black lives matter, systemic racism and inequality exists in society and as a by product in our companies, committing to action and outlining first concrete steps towards that action is a good road map to follow. These steps will signal this time things will be different and systemic change can happen. Our “speak” also matters so yes review things that can send subtle messages as well…as an example I always wondered why we use the word ChairMAN? How about we just call all positions at that level Chair. Subtle but sends the right message we are ready for change……Diversity and Inclusion should take a step forward on our priority list in the board room as well as the executive leadership table. This time things must be different or we would have squandered an incredible opportunity. Silence and lack of action should not and can not be an option……”

Julio Portalatin, Vice Chair, Marsh & McLennan Companies

7.30.20 “At AlixPartners we value the diversity of our people and our culture. I strongly believe that it isn’t possible to build a diverse community unless people feel included, and leaders must foster a work environment that promotes inclusion and equal treatment for all colleagues and in which everyone feels welcomed and valued. This in turn enables you to continue to attract the best talent and makes you a better partner for clients.”

Simon Freakley, CEO, AlixPartners

7.20.20 “As leaders, we must commit to creating a strong sense of belonging for all, and in fostering an atmosphere in which everyone can feel comfortable bringing their full self to work. This includes giving everyone a voice by convening honest conversations and increasing empathy so colleagues can be heard and understood on issues of inclusion, diversity and equity. We’ve recently hosted Courageous Conversations with more than 6,000 colleagues and it’s been a powerful tool to create change.”

Penny Pennington, Edward Jones Managing Partner

7.17.20 “It starts at the top. Leaders must pave the way to create and maintain an inclusive working environment—one that is built on mutual respect of differences, and where teamwork and relationships matter. BDO is a people-first organization, which serves as the foundation for everything we do. Our values are rooted in our people – our professionals, our clients, our families and our communities. As leaders, it is up to us to do our part to foster a culture that not only accepts individual differences, but celebrates them, and recognizes the value that diverse perspectives bring.”

Wayne Berson, CEO, BDO USA, LLP

7.15.20 “To build a culture where inclusivity is the everyday norm and diversity is always celebrated takes everyone’s involvement and commitment. One of the ways we focus on advancing our culture is through what we call “Everyday Equations,” a simple yet visual way to shift people’s behaviors. One of those equations is ‘Horseshoes > Circles.’ This equation communicates that any team or organization is stronger when it is open, like a horseshoe, to new people and ideas. The horseshoe also encourages great ideas and people to leave as well, bringing diversity, perspective, and new energy to a different team. People are asking how they can improve their own environments. My answer is: ask yourself every day, how can I make my team more inclusive? Being intentional about inclusion by opening up those circles is a recipe for a thriving culture and organization.”

Dan Helfrich, Chairman & CEO, Deloitte Consulting LLP

6.22.20 “Culture is your key asset in a crisis. First, live your values by keeping your people safe and enabling them with information and the right tools. Next, staying grounded in your purpose allows you to better see your customers’ needs and will rally your team to respond with speed.”

Troy Dayon, President, STANLEY Access Technologies and STANLEY Healthcare

6.11.20 “When we confront difficult times, I believe the most powerful thing we, as business leaders and human beings, can do is to invest in the things that matter most – our relationships. At 1-800-Flowers, we have doubled down on our company mission – to help people express and connect with the important people in their lives. During this health crisis we have worked toward strengthening these guiding principles to keep our team members and customers top of mind. My advice is to use this disruptive time to build durable, supportive communities and reprioritize how you engage and communicate with your stakeholders in genuine and impactful ways.”

Jim McCann, Founder & Chairman, 1-800

6.9.20 “I am focused almost entirely on vision, strategy, relationships, development and opportunities. But what I find in crisis is, I turn on my operating instinct a little more directly. How are we taking the strategy to ground? Because when times are this volatile and this dynamic, you get a series of strategic questions that are being raised constantly. And so, I find myself in touch almost daily with our key management team and even operators, local market CEOs, our digital people, our impact people, our marketing and communications people … not to tell them or direct them on how to do their jobs, but for me to understand what their operating reality is. It is hard for me to lead if I do not have a sense of what challenges they have in front of them right now. I can guess, but I am spending more time listening to people on the ground and to people in my own organization who are sometimes, two or three levels down from me, because that is where it is happening right now.”

Brian Gallagher, President and CEO, United Way Worldwide

6.3.20 “Now more than ever, we need to trust, empower and encourage our colleagues and our teams. Our culture makes us strong and resilient – and enables us to keep our commitments to each other, our customers and all our stakeholders. We have faced many challenges over the past 167 years – and have always emerged stronger. We remain optimistic about the future, sustained by the values that define us: the knowledge that we are better together, our sense of common purpose and the pride we all take in our work.”

Judy Marks, President & CEO, Otis Elevator Company

5.28.20 “As the fog of this crisis begins to dissipate, we have to balance how we react and rebound with how we reimagine new products, new models and new ways of serving customers in a post-Covid environment. I believe the most important thing a leader can do is to lift your head and look forward. Life and work feel different now. We need to create new and interesting ways of doing things for our employees, customers and society at large. That will be what makes the difference moving forward.”

Tami Erwin, CEO, Verizon Business

5.27.20 “Stay true to your purpose and why you exist but don’t be afraid to pivot. Be decisive. Now more than ever testing new things in new ways will give you instant and sometimes surprising feedback from all of your stakeholders – investors, partners, audience members, consumers and team. Knowledge and insights are key, so stay connected with your network, sound them out and listen to their perspectives and thoughts. It’s these insights that have helped Worth move quickly to a new set of products, programming and content ideas for our community. Most of all leading through this crisis has required and reminded me to be compassionate, courageous and stay curious.”

Juliet Scott-Croxford, CEO, Worth Media

5.26.20 “It’s easy during crisis to take a short-term view, but now CEOs need to take the long perspective. It is essential to support your employees, and by that I mean the blue-collar workers, by training them, communicating and keeping their morale high. As for aligning leadership, you may never get everyone on the same page, so you have to work with those who agree and build a plan together. The keys to being a strong CEO during crisis times are stamina, discipline and bravery.”

Pehr Gyllenhammar, former 24-year CEO, Volvo

5.22.20 “My biggest recommendation: stay true to who you are – as a leader, and as an organization. For SAS, this means taking care of our people. SAS was founded on the principle of treating people like they matter. We cultivate this behavior; we lead to our values. And, as a result, we have a global workforce of the most talented problem-solvers whose nature is to help and treat customers, partners, colleagues and communities like they matter.”

Dr. James Goodnight, Co-Founder, Chairman, President, & CEO, SAS

5.18.20 “Life is not full of ‘high five’ moments. In fact, the real test of leaders is not how they respond to success, but rather how they respond to setbacks, mistakes, and adversity. As a British officer observed some decades ago, ‘Don’t tell me how high the guy jumped, tell me how high he jumped back after getting knocked down.’ Members of one’s organization make mistakes, some significant. Leaders themselves come up short and exhibit faults. Circumstances present challenges – as certainly is the case in unprecedented fashion with the ongoing pandemic. And the question is how the leader responds. Does he or she guide the workforce in responding resolutely, determining the new big ideas in an inclusive, open, and iterative manner, communicating the big ideas relentlessly throughout the breadth and depth of the organization, overseeing the execution of the big ideas with skill and energy and resolve, and determining thoughtfully how to refine the big ideas in order to do it all over again? If so, the organization will answer the challenge impressively, adapt appropriately, and, in the end, not just survive, but succeed.”

General David Petraeus (US Army, Ret.), former Commander of the Surge in Iraq, US Central Command, and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan, and former Director of the CIA

5.15.20 “To lead a company, especially in a time of unprecedented global crisis, I find we are laser-focused on our purpose. We know the how, what and why we exist. The team and I have never communicated better. Through great communication, we’re learning, we’re adapting, we’ve become more nimble, efficient and effective.”
Mark Del Rosso, President & CEO, Genesis Motor North America

5.6.20 “In a crisis, it’s easy to panic and throw out your game plan. My advice is to avoid that temptation. As the COVID-19 outbreak became real, our leadership team turned to the guiding principles we established years ago. While we’ve shifted priorities, adhering to these principles helps us remain disciplined and gives us a framework for decision-making. As a result, our franchise partners and team members understand and embrace the actions we are taking. A&W is weathering the crisis well because of that. I believe we will emerge an even stronger organization.”
Kevin Bazner, President & CEO, A&W Restaurants

5.5.20 “The COVID-19 pandemic has really brought home the value of knowing our purpose as an organization. When I first joined MassMutual more than 30 years ago, I don’t think I fully appreciated what it meant to be purpose-driven, even though we have been since our 31 founders pooled $100,000 to start the company in 1851. Every year in this role, I’m grateful to have such clarity about why we exist – to help people secure their futures and protect the ones they love – but never more so than now. Since the crisis began, we’ve made a number of decisions backed by this purpose – decisions like moving quickly to working from home, using technology to connect customers with their trusted financial professionals, and talking to our managers about leading with empathy as people balance work and personal obligations. There’s no universal playbook for organizations to follow right now – we each have parts to play, and if you know your purpose, it’s much easier to determine what you are best positioned to contribute in difficult times.”
Roger Crandall, Chairman, President & CEO, MassMutual

5.4.20 “I would recommend that any time a company faces a tough decision or challenging situation, write down the principles that will be the foundation for the road ahead. These principles should be rooted in the company’s purpose and used as a litmus test on any decisions that are made. This empowers your team to make decisions in an agile way without always coming back to the CEO. If there is any doubt on potential actions to be taken, lean on your principles and the answer will be clear.”
Tom Polen, CEO and President, BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company)

4.30.20 “At the American Heart Association, we have dedicated our life’s work to the health and well-being of people and take seriously our responsibility to tackle the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath. Millions of people are counting on us for science-based information and answers, research that gets to the core of big unanswered questions, resources for the frontlines, community programs and patient support. While there’s no denying the complexity of managing through crisis, leaders can find clarity by testing every decision against touchstones that define their culture. I’m incredibly humbled to witness the collective influence of 40 million AHA volunteers, supporters, staff and communities come together with resilience and focus to hero our mission as a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.”
Nancy Brown, CEO, American Heart Association

4.24.20 “The best indicator of how you will succeed leading through this crisis is how you led before the crisis. If you built trust and a strong culture over the years then you can now draw upon that reservoir. Communication is key. In a time of crisis there is no such thing as too much communication. Reach out to all of your stakeholders and when you think you have done enough then start all over. Your stakeholders need to hear from you and most importantly you need to hear from them. Focus on the long term. Ignore the daily fluctuations in the markets, the noise from Washington, and the breaking news on cable news. Look to the future. Know where you want to be in two or three years and set your strategy on how to get there”
Mehran Assadi, Chairman, CEO & President, National Life Group

4.23.20 “I have put a quote on my wall to motivate me when I get frustrated at the current state of affairs, “Take action. Embrace uncertainty. Create the future.” When dealing with uncertainty like our current times: 1. Act. By taking a small step toward your goal. Then pause to see what you have learned. 2. Learn. Incorporate that learning into a game plan for achieving your goal. 3. Reflect. On that learning to calculate your next move. 4. Take the next step. Pause and reflect and then take another small step … The bottom line is, this cycle continues and repeats until you have succeeded or decided there is another more appealing opportunity to pursue. And especially in challenging times like these, leadership and action is the key — I believe a failure is only a failure if you don’t learn from it.”
Len Green, Chairman & Founder, The Green Group CPAs; Top-selling author, The Entrepreneur’s Playbook, Babson Professor

4.21.20 “We are facing an unprecedented challenge with the COVID-19 pandemic – one we have prepared for but hoped we would never have to encounter. It has transformed the way we live, work, communicate and even care for our patients. For Sentara, it has prompted us to evolve our organization’s processes, adapting practices to fit CDC guidelines and social distancing protocols while simultaneously addressing the needs this crisis presents for our patients and staff on the front lines. The pandemic has also forced a change in our operating and business model as we have stopped doing elective procedures to preserve critical bed capacity and staff protective supplies. It has resulted in a significant reduction in revenues and margin while we are staffing up for critically ill COVID-19 patients. This combination of actions are severely adverse economically to hospitals and health systems.

Our first priority is protecting and supporting our front line healthcare professionals and support staff. These staff are making sacrifices every day, working under difficult circumstances and deserve our full support. Clinical leadership physicians and nurses are essential in areas such as critical care medicine, pulmonary care, infectious disease and clinical pathology. Technology in the ambulatory environment pivoting to applications such as virtual care and telemedicine have proven to be incredibly valuable in supporting patient access to primary care delivery as physicians manage care for patients at home.

Communication and coordination with all levels of local, state and federal government officials is critical to serving our communities effectively. Partnering with private companies, universities and other health systems is also helpful in developing creative solutions to increase supplies of personal protective equipment, improve access to and turn-around times for testing, and implement new and safe clinical practices. Last, but not least, logistics in the management of data analytics modeling, supply and inventory management, communications, public affairs and operations management are all essential to the highly effective response in a high stress, intensive environment. The creation of a well-designed and leadership-focused Incident Command Center with key players participating from clinical and logistics areas mentioned above is essential to the effective execution in our response to this crisis.

I am extremely proud of the innovative work and dedicated commitment our team members exhibit on a daily basis while caring for each other and the communities we serve.”
Howard P. Kern, President & CEO, Sentara Healthcare

4.20.20 “The best thing we can do as leaders right now is to put humanity above the almighty dollar. For Gold’s Gym, that meant making the difficult decision last month to temporarily shut down operations of all company-owned gyms due to COVID-19. While this puts a strain on our business, I knew it was essential that we put the health and safety of our customers and employees at the forefront. We can’t control how these events will turn out, or when this will all come to an end, but we are confident that “this too shall pass.” And in the meantime, I’m working around the clock with my team to come up with alternative ways to serve our members from the safety of their homes, and to simultaneously keep the spirits of my team up. Consistent communication with all parties – our members, our franchisees, our corporate team – has been a key piece in reassuring everyone that all initiatives put in place during this time of uncertainty are designed with the greater good in mind.”
Adam Zeitsiff, President & CEO, Gold’s Gym

4.17.20 “Pets now, more than ever, are here for us – providing much-needed companionship and comfort during this time of uncertainty – and it’s essential that we’re here for them. At Banfield Pet Hospital, this means remaining agile and finding new ways to empower our veterinary teams with the information they need so they can focus on delivering essential, high-quality care to the pets that rely on us.
As we continue to prioritize maintaining a safe and healthy environment for our people and everyone who comes through our doors, it’s more important than ever that we use new, creative ways of communicating with associates while providing outlets that empower them to voice their questions, concerns and offer real-time feedback. To facilitate dialogue with our dispersed workforce of more than 19,000 associates across the U.S., I’ve implemented regular video virtual town hall meetings while continuing to actively engage with associates on social media – in addition to providing daily practice-wide updates with the latest information and guidance. As we face this global pandemic, open, honest and consistent communication with our teams is paramount, and we will continue to move quickly and explore every option possible to ensure that our associates feel heard and supported.”
Brian Garish, President, Banfield Pet Hospital

4.16.20 “Leadership is hard to define but easy to spot, especially during times of crisis. During this crisis, it is important to communicate frequently with confidence and a calming tone – be there to listen, as much as to lead. A leader’s legacy will be defined by how they respond to the toughest challenges and I can’t think of anything more challenging than what the world faces today. ”
Dan Berta – President, Fairfield County Bank

4.14.20 “In tough times, leadership matters. Character and courage are at the heart of that; it is the most challenging times when character is revealed. Courage is not the absence of fear, but overcoming fear; a leader has to have the courage to see the truth, speak the truth and act on the truth.”
Carly Fiorina

4.13.20 “Transparency and leadership are of utmost importance as we navigate through this unprecedented time. Employees are desperately searching for answers, guidance and support. As leaders, it is our responsibility to provide them with the answers they not only are looking for but deserve. As we navigate through this pandemic, it is my number one priority to protect staff and patients while also doing everything to alleviate the strain on our NYC healthcare system. We are laser focused on using all available capacity across our system to fight this battle. HSS is known for our resiliency and working together to deliver world-class care. It is important to find the positive in a tumultuous time and rise to the challenge.”
Louis A. Shapiro, President and CEO, HSS | Hospital for Special Surgery

4.10.20 “We have been forced into a work-from-home experiment at a scale far too large for comfort. But it has worked surprisingly well. Videoconferencing has made knowledge workers productive, but IOT and AR technologies have stolen the show for those who work in the real world of factories, plants, and worksites. IOT enables the remote monitoring and optimization of equipment and processes, while AR has enabled remote training and support of front-line workers. Just like videoconferencing vendors, PTC experienced a 10-fold increase in AR-based remote support customer traffic in the month of March. The Genie won’t go back in the bottle after the crisis passes, the days of a distributed workforce is here to stay.”
James E. Heppelmann, President & CEO, PTC

4.9.20 “The coronavirus crisis brought into focus our core business: Partnering with patients. The strain on our country’s already fragile drug supply chain is leaving people struggling to fill their prescriptions. To solve this, our team programmatically developed a supply-chain protocol to locate or source medications across our pharmacy network, ensuring people can access the drugs they need. In parallel, we are advocating for a stronger domestic drug supply chain that can be mobilized when necessary.”
AJ Loiacono, CEO, CapitalRX, a prescription drug supply chain logistics company.

4.8.20 “Our country is experiencing an unprecedented crisis. As leaders, it is crucial that we acknowledge the fear and stress it imposes on our workforce and the communities we serve. At EmblemHealth, we organized early to be a trusted source for comprehensive information about this disease. We committed early on to moving our thousands of non-patient facing employees to the safety of their homes. We also have helped our employees adjust to this new normal with information about how to work in a digital environment and how to deal with the stress of working at home while caring for children and elderly relatives.
And for our members, we went to work quickly to ensure that they had the prescription drugs they needed, expanded access to telehealth services, and directions on where to find testing for COVID-19. We are also continuing to partner with our hospital and physician partners to do everything we can to meet this crisis head on. We will take all the steps necessary to bring our members, associates and partners through this crisis.”
Karen Ignagni, President & CEO EmblemHealth

4.6.20 “I am a Churchill devote and he said a lot but the one I look to these days is ….never give in, never give in, never, never, never… ….so we just have to let it run its course .”
Alan B. Miller, Chairman & CEO, Universal Health Services, Inc.

4.2.20 “At this moment, CEOs are living through a difficult and different time. Yet, today, there are different opportunities and we must take advantage of them. Opportunities are there, and it is up to us to reinvent ourselves and our work. This is not the most difficult time our country has seen. Today, all kinds of digital and virtual avenues of communication bring us together that were previously nonexistent. We have community organizations and community leaders who are moving together. We are energized by the example of those who are assisting others in the wake of this virus, by the leadership in the medical and scientific fields. Those “on the front lines” leading the way to resolve the conflict at hand, and by the courage of people and organizations who have pivoted — tailors who are now crafting masks, breweries who are now making hand sanitizer. Quality, character, courage, and “beyond the call” describe those who respond to these unexpected national pandemics.”
Frances Hesselbein, CEO, The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum (* Note – Frances is 104 years old and the only active CEO I know who was actually alive during the 1918 Influenza pandemic!)

4.1.20 “Napoleon said that a leader’s role is to define reality and provide hope. Well, the reality of this situation and the situation of societies at large is this is an unprecedented set of circumstances that civilization has not had to encounter in the last 100 years. And while things have been difficult over the last few weeks, I’m confident that things are going to get more difficult before they get better. As a leader my mission is to ensure the wellbeing of our company, our employees, and to ensure that we come out of these events stronger and more viable than ever before. As always, we will be guided by our values. To do the right thing the right way.”
Marc Lautenbach, President and CEO, Pitney Bowes

3.31.20 “Clearly convey your expectations, be visible, listen closely and control the narrative. As you work through the immediate issues of this crisis, think if you were to look back two weeks from now on the decisions you made today. Would you regret them or done things differently? That’s how we’re making some of the most important and hardest decisions we will ever face here at Hartford HealthCare. Lastly, take care of yourself so you can take care of others – and be a role model for your team so they, too, will delegate and empower others. Together, we will get through this.”

Jeffrey Flaks, President & CEO, Hartford HealthCare

3.30.20 “This pandemic could become the “tipping point” for our country moving from shareholder-driven to stakeholder-driven capitalism, as how a company supports its people, customers and communities has never been more important or evident. There are so many great initiatives that CEO’s and their companies are taking. The Just Capital Covid 19 Response Tracker provides many inspiring examples . It makes me optimistic of how American capitalism will emerge from this crisis.”
Dan Hesse, Former CEO, Sprint

3.27.20 “With the current health crisis changing norms, work-life balance is no longer a binary concept, but one that has evolved into a challenging confluence of needs between work, home, and family, all under one roof. As a leader in this new paradigm, it’s important to provide employees with flexibility in how and when their work gets done, and trust and empower them to find the right life balance in these trying times.” James Parker, CEO, Masergy

3.26.20 “In my fifty-year career, I’ve experienced and led companies through many crises, from weather events that destroyed facilities to plane crashes that killed employees, but none of them comes close to the intensity and existential threat of the current crisis, the Coronavirus COVID-19.

However, I learned a lot from those previous disasters and the lessons I learned apply to this one, big time.

1. Engage in Non-Stop Communication

I’m a self-confessed communications freak (many people have confirmed my diagnosis) and a crisis is no time to cut back on communications. Information is power and must be shared, so that people can make good decisions for themselves and for their organizations. Without solid information, people will make up their own, listen to rumors, hope for the best, or imagine the worst. So leaders have to be open, share what they know, respond to questions, reveal what they don’t know, admit when they’ve gotten something wrong. I’m encouraged that so many business leaders are doing just that. In this environment, it’s essential that leaders share information with other company leaders, with government organizations, with the media, and most importantly, with all the constituencies involved in their enterprise including employees, franchisees, financiers, suppliers, partners, and others. Don’t ignore any constituency!

2. Imagine the Post-Crisis Future

I believe in the “power of anticipation.” I learned the importance of envisioning the future and acting on it the hard way from my time at Blockbuster. We could glimpse the future (more video streaming, less physical media) but were not able to take action on what we saw ahead. So, as dire as things are and as focused as you are on getting through the current moment, now is also the time to think about what happens on the other side. The crisis will come to an end, how and when we don’t know, but it will. What will the new normal look like? What things will have changed? What strategies will be obsolete? What opportunities might arise? Who might your competitors be? What have you learned about your organization’s strengths that can be leveraged? How have your employees and customers responded? The food industry, for example, has already seen how important “contact-less” food delivery is to people and expect it will be part of the new normal. Advance Auto Parts, seeing a sharp decline in new car sales, sees opportunity in supplying parts and services for older vehicles.

3. Develop Multiple Sources throughout Your Supply Chain

Never before have we heard so much talk about the supply chain and how important it is for companies and countries to have multiple sources of key products and materials, especially ones that are essential to weathering a crisis. One friend of mine, anticipating problems with his company’s suppliers in China, moved to different sources, all based in Italy. I don’t need to tell you how that worked out. The lesson is that we should always have multiple sources for our ingredients and supplies, and we need to set them up during normal times so they’re ready to come on line when disaster strikes.

4. Be Kind

During a prolonged crisis like this one, people are vulnerable and concerned. Many face furloughs or the loss of jobs, reduced income, uncertain futures, illness. The lucky ones, like me, can successfully work from home. Many people are even discovering unexpected pleasures in the midst of the gloom. We are learning the beauty of “distant socializing,” for example. People are talking more often on WhatsApp or sharing a glass of wine with friends on Zoom. But let’s not forget that many people are suffering badly. Organized charities and philanthropies need support more than ever. My wife, for example, chairs the Greater Boston Food Bank and they have embarked on an unscheduled fund-raising campaign to meet the expected spike in demand for services. We can also engage in more individual acts of support. For example, I know many people who are “pre-paying” their independent service providers and gig workers—such as hair stylists, yoga teachers, house cleaners, lawn-mowers, task handypeople—so they have some income to help them through the worst. The human instinct is to protect ourselves and our families first, but in times like these we have to take care of each other.

So, to get through this as successfully as possible, I encourage you to keep your eye on the big issues: keep people informed about the present, imagine the possibilities of the future, ready the supply chain for the next disaster, and help others as much as you can.

Nigel Travis, Chairman, Dunkin’ Brands

3.25.20 “Ask yourself, will your business survive a 50% drop in revenue over the next 90 days? If yes, track new information and evaluate weekly. If unsure, build a forecast asap. If no, attack costs.
If more than 80% of costs are people costs, reduce people costs: a) shift some employees to part time; b) defer salaries / bonuses; c) reduce staff; and d) cut travel. If you are unsure about people costs as a percentage, build a forecast asap.
If people are less than 80% of costs, reduce other operating costs: a) negotiate payment terms; b) evaluate all discretionary expenses; c) cut vendors / services; d) reduce inventory; then e) review possibility of reducing people costs.”
Scott Case, CEO, Upside; Founding CTO Priceline

3.24.20 “It is critical that we are incredibly diligent about cleaning and sanitizing our facilities constantly throughout the day as well as reminding our employees to maintain adequate social distancing. We have professional cleaners sanitizing all surfaces in our building multiple times a day. We’re utilizing virtual meeting technology for most of our meetings and staggering the number of employees in the building and in common areas. Our list of protective measures grows daily, and we are constantly asking ourselves what else we can do to keep our employees and their families healthy and safe. These are unprecedented times that require unprecedented measures.”

Cindi Bigelow, President & CEO, Bigelow Tea

3.23.20 “Leadership is of utmost importance now. People are looking for it. You should address all employees in a calm but direct manor. Lay out your guidelines and remind them we will get thru this and we are all here for each other. This is not the first and won’t be the last crisis we as Americans have gone through. United we are strong and will get through this.”
Dottie Herman, CEO, Douglas Elliman

3.19.20 “Older people are about twice as likely as younger, healthier people to develop serious outcomes from COVID-19. Many are more reliant on caregivers, friends and family to help them get the food, supplies and medicines they need. In addition to the medical risks, they also face significant social and economic risks from isolation and scam artists who use times like these to steal money or sensitive personal information. We must all go the extra mile to help our most vulnerable citizens feel a sense of security. We’re all in this together.”
Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO, AARP

3.18.20 “In the face of this pandemic, leaders of all organizations must, first and foremost, evidence a deep, abiding, and unmistakable concern for the well being of their associates. If they do not evidence that they genuinely “care” about the interests of the associates in a palpable way, it is hard to believe that the associates will “care” enough about the leaders agenda to fully help bring it to life. In that sense, “caring” is the cost of admission to the leadership game.”
Douglas R. Conant; Former CEO Campbell Soup Company


Our Upcoming Guests

Broadcast Locations

A List of Over 500 Past Interviews

CEO Connections

Past Interviews

Some of the 750 Companies of CEOs we have interviewed across all of our platforms

Nameyour full name
Repeat Password
Password Doesn't Match
User already exists. Please Sign In.
Opt in for emails to receive: