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June 10, 2020

Doris Valade On How To Survive And Thrive During A Pandemic (#8)

Doris Valade On How To Survive And Thrive During A Pandemic (#8)

Doris Valade on Leadership In Challenging Times, COVID-19, and Finding Opportunity
"One of the strengths of entrepreneurs is that we don't see risks" - Doris Valade
Doris Valade is a high performing operations-management business professional. Doris sold...

Doris Valade on Leadership In Challenging Times, COVID-19, and Finding Opportunity

"One of the strengths of entrepreneurs is that we don't see risks" - Doris Valade

Doris Valade is a high performing operations-management business professional. Doris sold her business, Malabar Super Spice Company, in 2017. Malabar Super Spice is a company that Doris built from the ground up. With almost four decades of experience, Doris now helps companies maximize business results.


  • Why a pandemic brings opportunities, not challenges, to businesses
  • How communication is the key to success during a pandemic
  • The power of communication with employees, customers, and vendors
  • How to work with vendors during a pandemic
  • Leveraging the downtime from a pandemic to rethink your business
  • How to look at your business for cost savings
  • The importance of mentors for business leaders
  • The power of connecting with other business leaders through PEO
  • How Doris puts things in perspective as a result of her trip to Kenya
  • What business leaders can be doing to help others, even if it's outside the scope of their business
  • The importance of an emergency fund
  • How to create an emergency fund with the help of your employees
  • The importance of learning how to pivot during a pandemic
  • Leverage technology for communications during a pandemic
  • Doris' grassroots approach to increasing sales and reducing costs during challenging times
  • How you can empower your employees to help the business save money
  • A powerful strategy Doris used to reduce transportation costs by 45% in her business
  • The power and need to train employees during challenging times

This podcast is brought to you by Deep Wealth. Are you thinking about selling your business? You have once chance to get it right and you better make it count. Learn how the Deep Wealth experience helps maximize company value before you sell. Master the same exit strategies we used to increase our company value 10X with our 9-figure exit.

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Steve Wells: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Sell My Business podcast. I'm Steve Wells.

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:00:06] And I'm Jeffrey Feldberg. Are you a business owner who's thinking of selling your business? Well, you know what? You have one chance to get it right and you better make count. Let Deep Wealth help you before, during, and after your exit. Maximize your value by helping you find and extract the deep wealth you never knew you had. 

Steve Wells: [00:00:26] The Sell My Business podcast is designed to help you talk with other entrepreneurs who have gone through an exit. Finding ourselves in the midst of this coronavirus, we thought it would be better to talk to other business people about how to adapt and survive in this crisis, and what would they do and what have they done in the past.

So, to begin, we're going to introduce you to the Doris Valade in just a moment. And Doris is a very seasoned business operator who has already been through one major recession back in 08 and although she has just recently sold her business, we don't want to talk about that today. We'll postpone that for another day, but we want to get Doris is insights on what to do in this crisis times and what she might help other business owners do right now during this very difficult business environment we find ourselves in. So welcome, Doris, and you know, everybody's talking about the downside for businesses. During this coronavirus is there any upside that you can see? 

Doris Valade: [00:01:31] There is sort of an upside for businesses with what we're going through right now. And I look back on 2000 and 2009 which was also very tough for a lot of companies, including my company at that time. And actually, we were operating in the red at the time, and I almost closed the doors.

So, some of the lessons that I learned back in 2008 2009 would apply to what businesses are going through today. Some of the key things in approaching the challenges right now under the coronavirus and the limits to contact is communication. I think that's number one, and communication with your employees and also communication with your customers.

And communication with your vendors. I find a lot of businesses, forget that their communication is multifaceted and in talking to your vendors, making them aware, if you've got any major inventory coming in, how do you manage that? If you have any significant payments that are due, how do you manage that? Communication with employees, those that are comfortable working from home, those that don't want to come into the office.

So, it takes a very special leader, I think right now to make it through this. And I think it may weed out some of the leaders that maybe shouldn't be leaders. 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:02:48] You bring up some terrific points. So, you've been a successful leader yourself over the years with the companies that you've started and been involved with.

When, when you look back to what you went through back in those days and the challenging times that you had and you look at today, where you have just, it's scary news and its history unfolding in the making. And we're in uncharted waters. And the first inclination is just maybe fold up shop, do nothing, just freeze and, and, you know, join the panic with the masses.

So, what, what would be some words of advice from, from the trenches, from your experience. to business owners today amidst this crisis, what can they do? What should they be doing and what shouldn't they be doing? 

Doris Valade: [00:03:33] An opportunity really for them to take a serious step back and look at their business and how efficiently is it running.

When things are going really well, we tend to spend money where we don't need to. We tend to put in steps and employees that maybe are not necessary or certainly are not efficient in terms of making the product or the service that we do. Also, it's the opportunity to do some strategic planning in terms of what the company is going to look like over the next few months and how it can get ready to grow.

When this is over because it will end to what degree and how quickly, nobody knows. It's going to be longer, not sooner, but you can either see this as an opportunity and as entrepreneurs, I think that's one of the strengths of entrepreneurs is that we don't see risks. We see opportunities for some business owners depending on their background, and that might be very hard to do.

The other consideration too, for business leaders is to source out mentors and other business leaders. Reach out. Business leadership should never be something you do alone. PEO has been fabulous for me, but there's so many other groups and everyone's online.

So, reach out, share, learn, keep an open mind and again, communicate. 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:04:47] What would you say to the entrepreneur who's thinking, I don't see it tomorrow. My, my customers are gone. I can't even operate my business from the physical place where I operated it from. Maybe I've done some online, maybe I haven't, but things are shut down. How can you talk about, tomorrow when I don't even have a today?

What would you say to those entrepreneurs? 

Doris Valade: [00:05:13] Yeah, and that is tough to do. I also have a slightly different perspective in that. I just came back from Kenya last week. We were in Kenya for 12 days. Part of our trip included visiting some local villages through the ME to We program helping women going through school into college and looking at careers.

We visited villages where families live in mud huts. They have to walk a kilometer a day, five times a day for water, and it's a hundred-pound jug that they have to carry back every time. That was very much a grounding trip for my husband and my son and I. So, there are those that manage with a lot less than what we have here.

And yes, it's tough right now. So, for example, I think, let's say a woman who recently started a, a spa or an aesthetic company, right? Doing nails and things. Well, they're not essential. She'll have to shut down. Maybe she'll have one or two women that were working with her. So, you close that down, but then look in the community and see how you can help keep on top of government funding and government support.

There is some out there now. But again, if you're renting your facility, you're talking to your landlord. Again, communication becomes absolutely critical. Talking to those where you know you can't make a payment where you're going to need some help and then reach out and help other people in the community in some way, whether it's picking up groceries, reach out and see about helping others, and that's what I would do.

Steve Wells: [00:06:43] If you're employing people as a business owner, and some of these employees here in the US would be 10 99 mean they're not meaning, they're not full time, they're not really even able to get, unemployment. I mean, there are going to be some benefits for them. 

How do you decide what to do with people that work for you and how do you keep yourself strong but also support them? Any thoughts on that? 

Doris Valade: [00:07:03] Well, it depends what your cashflow looks like. Because the bottom line, that's one thing I learned after 200, 2008, or 2009 is I always made sure that there was money set aside as an emergency fund.

And with that, this is the time to use that emergency fund. And if I had some staff right now, I would be supporting them probably 50%. Maybe not a hundred percent, but 50% payroll wise. And it would be as a loan. Interest free, and then they would pay it back over the next couple of years, a little bit off their payroll.

Not very much. but at least they would have some support right now. Unfortunately, people aren't spending money anymore and they are going paycheck to paycheck. And I think that's going to be one of the biggest lessons learned coming out of this for everyone, is to try and put a little bit in the bank aside for something like this 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:07:58] Doris, when, when you talk about lessons learned, you, you've said a few things. So, you, you spoke about having an emergency fund, which is terrific. And for those that haven't done that, certainly lesson well learned right now for going forward. You mentioned something earlier though, and it gets at the heart, what it is to be an entrepreneur.

In a situation like this where it's not business as normal or maybe it's not even business of not throwing out the white flag and saying that I'm done. But instead you said, you know, look to your community. What are the problems that are out there? How can you help people?

How can you solve the new problems? You got into business because you found a problem that you want to solve. How could you apply that today in a time of crisis? 

Doris Valade: [00:08:43] Some businesses have more flexibility to adapt to maybe a different sector or a different product that was similar to what they were doing and looking at how you provide those services in service industry, how you can provide those services that now adapts to the isolation components that we now have in the food industry.

There's a variety, but on the service side. You almost have to look at it one on one, but to really think out of the box, there's still some services that people are going to need in one form or another. I know some businesses are open and they're just taking one client at a time, so it is reduced, but it's still running.

You're still operating, you still have some kind of cash flow if you're making products. I mean, it's great how the breweries are now making the sanitizers. I'm surprised they never thought of doing that before, but I guess there wasn't enough market for it before, but there certainly is now. 

How can you adapt it? What other industries can you look at? So really kind of out of the box. And that's where having other mentors and other business leaders that maybe you can toss ideas around with would be a benefit. So, reaching out video conferencing, there's another one that's taken on a whole new meaning these days.

Don't stay alone. Reach out. See what you can do and think out of the box and try and be creative. 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:10:04] So don't say alone. Reach out to others. Be part of the community. If you were to look back to your 2008 experience and you fast forward to today and you're to take the lessons learned from 2008 and the strategies that served you well, if you had to pick three strategies that you can share, what would those be?

What comes to mind for you? 

Doris Valade: [00:10:26] I took a really grassroots approach in that there are two fundamental pillars of any successful business. This one is sales, maximizing your sales, and the other is minimizing your expenses. So first of all, from a sales point, I looked at, okay, who can be most effective in increasing our sales within our company?

And it turns out that that person was me. And up until that point, I was managing the company I was involved in the day to day, I was really stuck in the trees. And I realized, no, I need to get out there. I knew our products the best, and I was very passionate about our products being spices and seasonings for the meat processors.

So, I've been on the road and I built my strength of my team internally. I empowered them to do the day to day, and at the same time I had our bookkeeper take our top 10 expenses and we did a bit of a contest in the company and I said, how can we reduce the expenses. What can we do to minimize? We looked at the top 10, and I asked them to look at it as well as myself, and we came up with some very creative ways.

Transportation was one. We ended up reaching out to a few freight brokers. They had a few large national companies. And so, they were looking to add some smaller companies just to round out their service and their business.

So, they extended to us the same rates they were giving to the big companies. It cut our courier rates by 45% and that was huge. So, empowering the team. To own what we were doing and looking at those. And then the one other thing that I also did is I contacted our key vendors one-on-one that we had been doing business with for 20 years already. I let them know we were going through some tough times. Would they extend our accounts payable to 60 days or to 90 days? And fortunately, a number of them came forward and said, yes, we can do that. I made sure that at that end of that term, whether it was 60 or 90 that we paid them.

But that also allowed us then to bring in more sales in the meantime and then cover the payables when they came to 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:12:41] Some terrific strategies that, that you've shared. Thank you for that. And it brings up another question. So, when it's the sentiment and the mood right now is fear and panic, and it is not business as usual.

It's a fine balance because for some people that there's a mindset of why are you trying to sell me in a time like this? How do you deal with that? Back in 2008 and fast forward to today, what advice would you have of that fine balance between selling, because you need to keep the lights on and the doors open, but also helping in and a few practical do's and don'ts.

Doris Valade: [00:13:22] Well, because we were in the food industry, people always had to eat. So, we had an advantage there. So fortunately, even when times are tough, people still have to eat. For some parts of the industries, more luxury items or items of convenience, those are the ones that people are going to look at taking out of their budget first.

How do you guide those? I'm not sure you can right now. I'm not sure that they could actually increase sales right now unless they can find another way of packaging their product or their service or offering their product that brings forward a need. 

We can't say that every company retool itself or redefine itself to meet the needs of what's happening in the market today. 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:14:08] Certainly some challenging times, but from the challenging times within every challenge it's easier said than done is the seed of opportunity. That can create a whole new segment, a whole new product, a whole new service, and put a company in into the stratosphere.

Doris Valade: [00:14:25] I agree. 

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:14:26] Well, some terrific tips that you've shared as we round things out of leadership in a time of crisis, of, of not just surviving, but how to thrive. Anything else that you'd care to share with those who are listening? 

Doris Valade: [00:14:40] Don't panic. Rely on the facts. Don't watch the news all day and take this opportunity to step back and look at your company.

Now's the time to look at how can you increase sales? How can you reduce the expenses so that as this starts to clear up and it will, you're ready to jump in. Whether it's strategic planning, or training for your staff. They're off site, but you could still do training. So, there's different things you can do to stay busy and to prepare your company for the next steps.

Jeffrey Feldberg: [00:15:13] Terrific advice and spoken from a successful entrepreneur. Thank you so much, Doris for your time and your insights. 

Doris Valade: [00:15:23] You're very welcome.