We at US Veterans Magazine asked the owners of three very different veteran-owned small businesses how their own military crisis skills have benefitted each of their businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what they had to say:
Cesar Nader, President & CEO, X Corp Solutions, Inc.
X Corp Solutions, Inc., is a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business that specializes in language training, culture immersion and regional knowledge. The company offers leadership workshops, workforce development and career transition seminars for professionals and organizations. X Corp has a diversified portfolio serving military, federal government, state and local, private sector and international clients in five states across the Unites States (HI, CA, NC, MD and VA) and is looking to expand into new markets. X Corp is also a Disadvantaged Minority Small Business Entity or 8(a), GSA certified schedule holder (MOBIS Schedule), Top Secret Facility Level Cleared (FLC) entity, ISO certified in 9001-2015-Quality Management Systems and 27000–Information Security Management. For more information, visit xcorpsolutions.com
Before the government declared any objectives or guidelines for the country, we put in place a three-phased plan with five levels of employee conditions. I would be happy to share that plan. Just as with any military crisis, we brought our “CORE-4” team together—which included our top managers—and began putting together a plan of how we could ensure that our customers would get their missions accomplished. We planned for every level of action and met daily for this pre-phase I implementation. We also planned to make sure we could keep each one of our employees on the payroll, even before there was any Payment Protection Program Loan or CARES Act in place. The swift and immediate implementation of our plan in early March allowed us to instill confidence and trust in our employees, and earned us the same from our customers. Our partners were also eager to learn about our plan and asked if we could share it so they could implement it. Our ability to draw on my military training to plan for contingencies and emergencies was critical in showing a calm and effective leadership posture, and allowed me to teach my team how to perform in the midst of chaos. The outcome has been remarkably effective in how our XMen, customers, partners and allies trust us to lead the way—and let them know that in the face of adversity and panic, we’ve got their backs.
Kathleen Ford, Co-Owner & CEO, scDataCom
scDataCom, LLC, a nationally-recognized small business specializing in the design, installation and service of physical and electronic security systems for public and private sector clients, was just certified by the State of New York as a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business (SDVOB). scDataCom is also recognized by the Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) for its service-disabled veteran-owned status.
The pandemic of 2020 had a profound impact on the nation, with many small businesses suffering a fatal, unrecoverable blow. scDataCom fell within the “essential services” umbrella as our team supports critical infrastructure, so our trucks continued to roll, but not without considerable disruption, chaos, fear, and adaptation required to do old things in new ways. My military experience and that of our staff (over 50 percent of our team are veterans) trained us well for this one—changing plans is a military norm, and we are experts in the pivot. In the short term, scDataCom took the opportunity to provide security services for our small business customers who felt vulnerable leaving their vacant shops unmanned; we were able to set up cameras in a main business corridor and provide remote viewing for business owners to “watch the shop” while quarantined. As things are returning to the new normal, we are adapting our sales strategy, launching a subscription/lease service for cash-strapped businesses who need access control or video solutions, and pursuing additional work in sectors less affected by current economics, such as the federal and construction sectors.
Al Lopez, President & CEO, Alma Coffee
Al Lopez is the Veteran Business Owner (VBO) of Alma Coffee & Finca Terrerito, a coffee roastery and coffee farm focused on improving the lives of many, implementing sustainable practices in everything they do and the production of extraordinary coffee. As a 4th generation coffee farmer, Lopez sources coffee directly from his own farm in Honduras (@fincaterrerito) and from other farmers he knows directly (almadoptions). On the coffee roasting side (Alma Coffee), they expertly roast based on the natural properties inside the coffee and take pride roasting on an American-made Loring Smart Roaster, the most fuel-efficient coffee roaster on the market, emitting 80 percent less emissions than other conventional roasters. For more information, visit myalmacoffee.com
The answer is Plan, Simplify and Execute. As a military man, I plan for everything, but the pandemic was not one I had planned for—I missed it completely! Our business, Alma Coffee (@myalmacoffee) took a significant and direct hit. We went to zero revenue overnight; our café and wholesale customers shut down. Other coffee roasters who purchase green bean (coffee bean prior to roasting) from my Finca Terrerito farm were also operating at very low capacity levels and had paused on most purchases. Instead of panicking, the skills I acquired in the military kicked in. Comradery in the military creates a sense of invincibility, where nothing can ever hurt you, and this is the culture we want to create in all our businesses.
At Alma Coffee we followed and continue to follow the Infantry motto, ‘Forever Forward.’ When the pandemic hit, we gathered our team of six, shared ideas, decided on the next steps and gave each member the tools needed to succeed. We reached out to all of our friends and family, our community and all others in our network to ask for help. I did a video for the VIB (Veterans in Business – https://myalmacoffee.com/pages/supportvib) network and asked them to please purchase Alma Coffee. We were brutally honest and informed them that without their purchases, we would not survive. We pivoted and moved forward aggressively to develop our online business. With the pandemic, the majority of the world has continued to drink coffee, but where and who they purchase from has changed. We decided to execute a strategy of being within arms distance of the customer. For us, this meant contactless home delivery via online ordering. The online e-commerce world is fairly new to us so there has been a lot of trial and error, but we are quick to learn and passionate about doing things right and delighting the customer! I am proud to say we have not missed a payroll check; we have paid all of our bills and are more motivated than ever to continue following the Infantry’s ‘Forever Forward’ motto. We are beyond blessed to work in the coffee industry, the second most traded commodity in the world.
Photos: pictured top; Al Lopez: Image credit: Clay Goswick Photography; bottom left, Kathleen Ford: Image credit: Apt. B Photography; bottom right, Cesar Nader, President & CEO, X Corp Solutions, Inc.