What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19?
These are difficult days for everyone and there is nothing more important for the economy than a robust recovery. It is why the work of HSAC@SPP is important. The mission is to support the City of Los Angeles so that we can all emerge more strongly after a crisis. For nearly 20 years this has been a cornerstone of my mindset. Prepare for the worst-case scenario and invest in resiliency. As a businessman, I may not be able to prevent a crisis, but through the work of HSAC@SPP, at institutions such as RAND and through the family’s foundation I can lend a hand toward the recovery effort.
Government alone cannot bring a city, a region or a country back from a disaster. It requires partnership between the private and public sectors.
What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation?
My experience has run through the ‘87 stock market crash, ‘91 savings and loan real estate crash, 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the ‘07/’08 financial crisis, so I have been through a number of crises in my career. Each one is different and teaches us different lessons.
When running a large, publicly traded company one needs to be able to understand that the unexpected will happen, therefore the most important job of a chief executive is to lead, especially when the unthinkable happens. On 9/11 we owned the retail lease at the World Trade Center. Our experience on that day and in the days that followed, underscored that government alone cannot bring a city, a region or a country back from a disaster. It requires partnership between the private and public sectors.
My focus right now is to support the City of LA to make recovery in our region possible and I do that through the focused work of HSAC@SPP. Simply put, HSAC@SPP is a partnership unlike any other in the country. HSAC@SPP is a nonprofit that does one thing: lend support to local government in order to expand LA’s capabilities in a crisis—whether that means technical support, staff support or making connections to get meals to seniors or PPEs to hospitals. The City sets the agenda, HSAC@SPP helps make it happen.
It is also why HSAC@SPP has been joined with The Emergency Supply Donor Group, a nonprofit we partner with to bring PPEs to local LA hospitals. Not only have we supported the funding, we have been on the front lines helping to identify suppliers of equipment and meals for our front-line medical responders.
How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now?
The speed, the breadth and the depth of this pandemic in both health and financial terms is just staggering and difficult to comprehend. There is a lot of uncertainty ahead, as we will all learn to navigate existing within new global parameters of business and how Covid-19 has affected all economies.
What have you learned from other difficult times in the past?
The biggest lessons learned during the events of 9/11 and afterward have clearly focused me on crisis preparedness and the need for the private sector to support government during and after a crisis. City leaders including the LA City Mayor’s office, LA County Fire Department, LA Police Department, and LA County all use HSAC’s SALUS Platform to continuously update the public of all things Covid-19 related in terms of health. We make it free to the public to download in both English and Spanish at www.hsacouncil.org and embed on any site. It is the reason for my work with HSAC@SPP, and I believe it is a model for public partnership around the country.
Safe–and entertained–at Home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime
I try to keep a routine. Getting up early to watch the markets and read the newspapers front to back. Actually, having time to read the papers thoroughly is something that I have found that I missed, and I didn’t have time for before the crisis. I work out most days and take time to sit and write comedy (I perform Stand Up at local Comedy Clubs, mainly the Laugh Factory, as often as I can). I love comedy and working on it has given me respect for the talent of the great writers and comedians. Of course, the focus on HSAC@SPP means there is constant information flow and work to get done, and it helps to contribute to something that makes some difference.
I have never been a consistent TV watcher.
I now have time to read nearly every day. I have completed a number of books in these last weeks including, Presidents of War, Oblivion of Glory, Shadow Strikes, Black Edge, and most recently In Praise of Wasting Time.
Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?
Everyone’s idea of normal has been changed overnight, and therefore the things I miss and look forward to returning to are the same as everyone else. Going to a restaurant, seeing friends, seeing a soccer game, and maybe this is a California thing, but surfing with a bunch of friends.