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How An ESPN Analyst, TripActions And Taylor Guitar Recovered From Their Crises In 2021
From:
Edward Segal, Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Crisis Management Expert
Washington, DC
Friday, January 7, 2022

 

Commentary From Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Author Of The Award-Winning Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey)

 

Vince Lombardi, considered by many to be the greatest coach in the history of American football, said, "It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up." In 2021, many companies and high-profile individuals were knocked down by Covid, supply chain bottlenecks or a self-inflicted crisis.

Here's how three of them managed to get back up.

Bad Judgement Call

Brendan Griffith is senior vice president of Reputation Partners, a national strategic communications firm. He recalled that in July, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith received massive backlash from the Asian American community because of the comments he made about Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani.

As reported by NBC News, "In a segment on ESPN's morning talk show 'First Take,' Smith said... that Ohtani, a Japanese-born Major League Baseball sensation who has drawn comparisons to Babe Ruth, couldn't be the face of the sport because he uses an interpreter.

"I understand that baseball is an international sport itself in terms of participation, but when you talk about an audience gravitating to the tube or to the ballpark, to actually watch you, I don't think it helps that the number one face is a dude that needs an interpreter, so you can understand what the hell he's saying in this country," he said on the show.

Smith apologized in the aftermath of the criticism and condemnation he received because of his comments.

"I want to express my sincere apologies to the Asian community and the Asian American community," Smith said in his opening remarks on ESPN's morning talk show 'First Take.' "I am a Black man. I religiously go off about minorities being marginalized in this nation."

Smith's monologue came after the ESPN commentator offered an apology late Monday, saying: "As an African-American, keenly aware of the damage stereotyping has done to many in this country, it should've elevated my sensitivities even more."

"I screwed up," he added. "In this day and age, with all the violence being perpetrated against the Asian Community, my comments—albeit unintentional—were clearly insensitive and regrettable."

"I'm sincerely sorry for any angst I've caused with my comments."

On The Comeback Trail

Griffith said Smith, "was able to successfully weather the crisis. On a basic level, one can measure his success recovering from the crisis by the fact that he continues his employment at ESPN and has not been in multiple news cycles related to the incident since his apology and transparent communication.

"Since then, he has continued appearing daily on the company's most prominent TV and radio shows, reaching tens of millions daily," he noted.

"Oftentimes—as was the case for Stephen Smith—organizations find themselves in the hot seat unknowingly and unexpectedly. While [Smith] was able to quickly address the situation publicly via his own social media channels and also via ESPN's platforms, the actions he took provide a strong blueprint for companies that find themselves in these situations..." Griffith advised.

In Smith's case, the blueprint included owning and explaining his position, apologizing, and creating a dialogue and platform.

Back From The Brink

TripActions, like countless other organizations, was knocked down by Covid when their revenue dropped to zero and they had to lay off 25% of their staff.

TripActions is a corporate travel booking platform that according to Reuters "competes with American Express Global Business Travel and Concur Travel. Last year the company launched a credit card called TripActions Liquid and built an expenses platform that makes it possible for employees to never file an expense report again."

The Road Back

Kelly Soderlund, the senior director of communications at TripActions, said the company got back up this year by:

  • Accelerating the timeline for their corporate card and expense solution, TripActions Liquid, which had launched only a month before the pandemic.
  • Expanding the types of expenses employees could submit and turned Liquid into a corporate card and expense solution that eliminated expense reports for employees.
  • Providing companies with real-time visibility into all business spending and instantly reconcile transactions.
  • Giving companies the ability to better manage employee spending and ensure workers had access to the funds they needed.

The Numbers Tell The Tale

According to Soderlund, "As a result of all of these efforts, on both the travel and the spend side, we've seen our business grow and recover to now pre-pandemic times. TripActions announced two funding rounds, an acquisition, and increased its valuation from $4 billion to $7.25 billion."

Bloomberg.com reported that, "Booking volume at TripActions has exceeded pre-pandemic levels because of increased market share, the company said. The company cited 500% growth in transactions and 400% growth in active users over the past six months for its TripActions Liquid spending-management platform..."

Bouncing Back From The Supply Chain Crisis

As I reported in October, Joel Sutherland, professor of practice in supply chain management at the University of San Diego School of Business said, "there are companies, and industries that are rebounding quicker and more successfully" from the supply chain crisis.

A Strong Base

"These include firms with a strong U.S. base of suppliers, firms that maintained sufficient safety stock vs. relying on just-in-time inventory replenishment practices, and firms that were able to maintain their labor force largely intact.

"For example, Taylor Guitar, a San Diego-based company, maintains large inventories of exotic tone woods sourced from around the world due to sustainable practices and the need to age their woods.

Silver Lining

"They were able to maintain production in spite of [their] challenges... In fact, as more people stayed home, demand surged to record levels and they increased their labor force significantly. They are still producing record numbers of guitars and back orders will see them well into 2022," he said.

Edward Segal is a crisis management expert, consultant and author of the award-winning Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare For and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey). He is a Leadership Strategy Senior Contributor for Forbes.com where he covers crisis-related news, topics and issues. Read his recent articles at https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsegal/?sh=3c1da3e568c5.

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