Sunday, September 27, 2020

Covid and The Great Re-Negotiation Strategy

The Great Three

 There are events in our lives that are watershed moments.  Snapshots in time that usher in either great change or awareness.  I have lived through several of these and have coined these, The Great Three.  

The first was my marriage to my spouse.  From our first date in '91, to this date, she is my everything and my life has never been the same. Every day is and adventure and sharing my life with my best friend has been so good for my soul.  She is my biggest fan and it shows every day in her actions and words.

The second was the birth of my children.  I used to say it was the birth of 'a' child, but all three of my children are so important to me in so many ways.  But the demarcation between pre-children and post-children is very stark and life is never the same.  I knew there was love between a child and a parent, but was unclear until the moment my son came into this world, the love and bond between a parent and their child.  

The third was the death of a parent.  I have only lost one, so far (knock on wood), but that is also a very important if not tragic or sad milestone in ones life.  I lost my father some 16 years ago this December.  Not a day goes by that I don't think of him in some way or fashion.  Thankfully I still have my mother and my in-laws.  

What about COVID-19?

But what does this have to do with Covid and the title of this article, you ask?  Well - until 2020, and I think it is safe to say that the year 2020 has been one dumpster fire after another - I have never considered the impact of a global pandemic.  Now, 'The Great Three' has become 'The Great Four', because we will never be the same, again.

Sure, as an IT Executive, I have had to plan for disasters of all sorts from fire, flood, electrical storms, hurricanes, tornadoes and even the more common West Coast killer, Earthquakes.   But, on paper, the idea of a pandemic was very far fetched and difficult to comprehend the complete scope of what that sort of disaster would look like, in today's economy, society, and business world.  Sure, we had historical references and if you asked me to name a global pandemic, I would have had to go back to the 1918 Pandemic.  Yes, we more recently had the H1N1 flu pandemic, but that came and went like a whisper.  It didn't have any affect on us, in general.  

Now comes 2020 and COVID-19 is weaving its way through the American fabric and our businesses are forced to adjust accordingly with new work-from-home policies, shelter-in-place orders from the state, and figuring out new ways to make money, attend school, get healthcare!  It has been quite an interesting 6 months, not the mention the horrific death toll some Americans have had to pay and will continue to pay.  

But the crisis has started me looking at our contracts in very unique ways.  The contracts we have with our suppliers and vendors.   For the past 9 months, I have been tasked with running my corporate facilities department (as well as my regular IT management duties) and I have found one thing to be abundantly clear: There is no empathy in business.  

Empathetic Entities

What do I mean by that statement?  Since March, 2020, my company has been working-from-home.  Prior to the WFH/SIP orders, my company had 5 main locations and several other smaller offices around the world.  As the spring days gave way to the summer months, our company as well as so many others have sought a little relief from unceasing lease payments on buildings we were not occupying.  Landlords, while having bills and mortgage payments, themselves, refused to discuss any sort of relief.  And this was across the board.  You could threaten them with non-payment and they would invoke clauses within their agreements or threaten to send you to collections.  We could seek suspension of payments under local Santa Clara County ordinances, but this would only delay the inevitable. 

The Great Pandemic Clause

But it occurred to me... all our contracts (that I have seen in my past 12 years at this company) don't contain any verbiage/legalese to protect us, the end-user, in case of a Pandemic.  Sure, there might be clauses around acts of God or disasters, but a Pandemic clause is going to be a must on all future contracts.    

Why?   Because it will stipulate the relief parameters in advance of any pandemic.  God willing, there won't be another event for 100 years, but wouldn't it be great to have a 50% reduction in rent as relief, in case we are mandated to shelter-in-place?  By no fault of ours, we cannot occupy a space, but have to keep paying the full rate.  That isn't fair.  Quite honestly, it isn't fair for anyone, the landlord or the tenant.  

Any long term, 3 year or greater lease arrangement for a building or office equipment, no matter what it is - if a future pandemic may cause a loss of use of that item, then you should include some sort of clause to protect your monetary investments.  Why pay 100% for copiers that nobody is there to use or print on.  Why pay 100% for office space that nobody is allowed to visit.  

Now, I am not talking about a company that has decided to Work-From-Home as a new policy.  I am talking about being forced to work-from-home because of a shelter-in-place order.  When 95% of most businesses are not essential, you have very little recourse to save some money - that is, until now.  

Hindsight is 20/20, I know, but hopefully we won't have another pandemic of this magnitude for another 100 years.   Food for thought, anyway. 

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