Gratitude for The Change Thrust Upon Us

My colleague Tim Schokking recently sat down to speak with one of his clients, Tim Dumas, COO of JAK’s Beer, Wine, Spirits about finding gratitude for the change thrust upon us, during COVID-19. Tim Dumas has been sharing some valuable insight with a bunch of the CEOs we work with, so we thought it was worth sharing with others. As an essential service, JAKS has continued to operate during the lockdown, so we wanted to see what it’s been like and what are the keys to their success. What you’ll see is how Tim and his team at JAK’s leverage technology, keep the dialogue open, and continually look for ways to improve, especially when none of us know what the future holds.

Thanks for joining us, Tim. What’s changed for you and your team (because of COVID-19)?

Well, in the store, especially, are all the PPE measures that we do – the safety measures have changed a lot. And there’s a lot more communication because things are changing every day and week – especially now we’re going to phase two of Covid in BC.

How do you stay on top of that with your team?

Zoom has been an amazing platform. We used it previously but now we use it all the time, and it’s been a great tool. When Covid first happened, we jumped in right away with calls twice a day, at 8am and 8pm. That allowed our people to ask any questions, for us to outline what we were doing and how we were making decisions, and to get feedback from our people about what they needed to be, and feel, safe. We got a lot of great ideas from those calls.

Would you say they were excited to be on Zoom at the start?

I think they were excited that we had that level of communication. I don’t know they were specifically excited to be on Zoom versus in person. Our business is a very physical, in-person business. Before COVID, we didn’t have an online store – we were a face-to-face business, as far as our customer base. So, initially, that was really hard.

I imagine you probably experienced some difficult times. How do you keep a positive attitude?

Well, the great thing we always do is look for a silver lining to any situation. When we did those calls every day, we’d start with professional development: almost like a one-minute TED Talk, or a video we got from YouTube. And – we’ve been doing this for years – we always start every meeting, going around the table, asking what we’re grateful for. It can be just one thing. Today it can be bicycling, tomorrow it can be playing volleyball or being back in the office, socially distant, and seeing someone face to face. So, gratitude is really helpful.

There are so many people negatively impacted by this and we’re lucky to still be able to work and have a livelihood. That was an area that we could be grateful.

“We could have decided to fall into the fear (but) we decided to be grateful for what we have…to minimize the risk and face that fear.”

There’s a piece around how to cope with change: you either try to escape it or you try to control it, so I’m hearing maybe more of the control side. Is that right?

I don’t even know if ‘control’ is the right word. I think it’s really important to be absolutely open. When we don’t know the answer, we’re really open with people about how we’re making decisions. And if we didn’t have a decision, we’d show our matrix of how we’re going to make that decision. We did jump in really quickly to do that which has been really helpful for people. We definitely brought them into every discussion on those twice daily calls, so anybody who had some something to say could be there, and we used so many of those calls to formulate policy.

How much of what they were saying did you try to implement?

Most of it – or, I’d say, all of it. We’d take all those perspectives and then make a policy or procedure from there. It was all about safety: making our people, our service champions, and guests feel safe- and to do the safest thing for the community. We took all those things into account.

We were really upfront, from the beginning that we can never completely, 100% manage risk but we were going to do all the things that we possibly could to minimize risk to an acceptable level – with gloves, with masks, with sanitizer and all those types of things. I mean we’ve used sanitizer so much that plastic door handles are actually falling off because they’re being eaten away!

Speaking of handles falling off, is there anywhere, looking back at the last couple months of this change where you’d like a ‘take two’, as a leader?

I’m sure there are things that we could have done better, absolutely, but I really haven’t focused on that. I look at what we’re doing going forward and, if we ever make a mistake, look how we can change it. If there’s a problem, we’ll face it and change it because looking back and saying we should have done this, two weeks ago or a month ago, serves no purpose. We’re really focused on our purpose and where we’re going in the future.

I can’t really think of a terrible mistake we’ve made but we’ve made little pivots all along the way, and we’ve been really open with our team about that.

Any sense of what you need to be ready for, going forward, or advice you’d give to other organizations in terms of change?

I wish we all knew what things were going to look like in a month or two months or six months!

As far as advice: we were really intentional, from the beginning, about where we get our information – not from social media but from public health officials in BC and in Canada. We read everything, every day, and watch press conferences and utilize what they say. They have the most information and have our best interests at heart. No matter your political leanings, these are the times to trust in them. To speculate with not even half the information they have, doesn’t make any sense. So, we really followed what they were saying and doing, and in some cases, went even further with our safety.

“If I had any advice going forward, it’s to really make sure you get and understand the right information and to be upfront and transparent with your people.”

What is something that you’re grateful for that you plan to carry forward?

What I’m grateful for, during this time, is that our family unit came back together. My wife and I have six kids and, normally, we’re running in six different directions, taking different kids to different sports and activities. We’ve come back to have a family dinner again…and we’ve had a lot more time together. We go bike riding as a family or walk or just play and throw the ball in the front yard. And that’s something that I certainly think that we will look at closer, in the future. Are we over-scheduling and running ourselves into the ground? I know many other people who are going to think about that more.

In relation to the business world, it’s the same thing: the new world will not look the same as it did yesterday. I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but I do know that people will work from home, more. Most people in big cities commute a minimum of one hour a day – at least half hour each way – sometimes more. If we think about that time versus time to work and time with our families, if we just spent a couple days working from home, we can be a lot more effective and efficient, and that’s going to make our communities a whole lot better.

Is there anything else you’d want to share?

The only thing I would say is that Lawrence & Company has been excellent during this time and I really appreciate the extra peer-group mentoring seminars. If anyone is thinking about doing that, they are absolutely outstanding and I hope that you might do that more often, moving forward.

And if I can add value to anyone, in any way, in their business or just as a sounding board for what they’re doing versus what we’ve done, I’d love to talk to them.

I always appreciate that about you, Tim!  Thanks so much!