Leading Through the Fog
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A recent Goldman Sachs Poll of 1,500 small businesses revealed that 51% of those business owners believed their businesses would be able to continue to operate for only 0-3 months. After reading this and the other results of that poll, I developed a presentation and held a virtual Microsoft Teams meeting for our headquarters personnel.  I shared this information and discussed what we are doing to not only survive during this crisis but to focus on thriving – all while helping others in the process. In fact, we are helping other organizations mitigate the negative effects of this global crisis.


Here are 5 things I am doing now to lead my organization through the fog of COVID-19:


1.   Focus on the basics.
For us, the basics start with our core values. We are reviewing and discussing our 5 Core Values. I want to ensure that our team understands that no matter how tough things get, our foundational values will guide us through these next several weeks and perhaps months. Our values will also place us in the best position to thrive.

Our Values

  • Client Success First
  • Quality Service
  • Respect for Others
  • Meaningful Relationships
  • Positive Community Engagement


2.   Refuse to be paralyzed by the unknowns.
We acknowledge the fears and the unknowns. The fog is real, but we understand the importance of navigating though the uncertainty. We choose to focus our efforts on those things that we can do, rather than focusing on the negatives. We spend our time investigating, planning, coordinating and executing. We focus on making smart decisions. We continuously improve our internal communications to ensure we are there for each other. We are also using our technology platforms to be more creative, brainstorm and find ways to help ourselves and our clients.


3.   Listen intently to the environment.
The environment always provides information that you need to know. While the digital, social and traditional media environments are filled with clutter, I sharpen my listening skills by focusing on reliable and credible sources of information, and I insist that our team does the same. I am learning through webinars, engagements with other business leaders and business focused organizations. We are also calling our customers just to see how they are doing.


4.   Ramp up communications efforts.
We increased both our internal and external communication efforts. It’s vital to recognize the differences between those two audiences. We are executing focused internal communications while simultaneously enhancing and improving our external communications as well.


5.   Take care of me.
Over the last several years, I traveled a few weeks every month. It’s actually refreshing to pause and focus on my diet and my health. I have eaten too much fast food and banquet rubber chicken for lunch and dinner, and not spent enough time exercising. A healthy body simply promotes a healthy mind. I am eating more vegetables, avoiding fast foods, walking more and feeling better both mentally and physically. I am also spending meaningful time on the phone and video calls with mentors, other business leaders, family members and friends. It is rather refreshing!


One of my good friends reminded me a few weeks ago that I was trained, educated and prepared for this very moment – to lead once again in a time of crisis. I commanded troops in combat. I led one of our nation’s most valuable defense base resources during the aftermath of 9/11. I started my business in 2007, just before one of the most devastating economic periods in our nation’s history. I also co-authored the Nation’s Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan while serving on the Homeland Security Council in The White House. I have never been more prepared for a time such as this.


Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I would love to hear what you are doing to survive and thrive during this global crisis. Or, just reach out and share the challenges you are facing.


Brian Butler

Brian Butler is President and CEO of Vistra, an integrated marketing communications and professional solutions agency providing communications and management solutions to corporate, government and nonprofit organizations.

A retired and decorated career military officer, Brian has provided public relations, strategic communications, marketing, and management consulting services to senior leaders and their organizations for nearly three decades. Prior to founding Vistra, Brian provided strategic communications counsel to senior leaders at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, FL. He also served in a director-level policy position on the Homeland Security Council (HSC) in the White House.

As an experienced leader and communications professional, Brian worked in the Washington, D.C. office of Fleishman-Hillard International Communications. While in uniform, he served as Spokesperson and Chief of Communications for an Army Secretary and on the personal staff and communications team for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.