“Contingency plans must be in place for predictable scenarios” — Paul H Barrett
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of dealing with crisis and how to adapt and overcome. The context of this series is the physical and financial fallout that resulted from the COVID 19 pandemic. Crisis management is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul H. Barrett.
Paul grew up and was educated in Tucson, Arizona. As a young man he delivered newspapers and cut grass, and later became a local musician. After high school, he joined the Navy in 1960. After serving his country he came back to Tucson (taking advantage of the G.I. Bill) and graduated from the University of Arizona in 1971 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. His corporate career ended as production manager for eight plants and 1250 employees and is currently retired with a Fishing Charter business in Key West, Florida.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
I was born in another year of crisis for the USA, 1941. I grew up in Tucson, Arizona after my family was forced to leave Ohio for a low humidity area, due to my father’s breathing condition resulting from Mustard Gas exposure in the first World War. I joined the Navy after graduating from Tucson High in 1959 to serve like my father and brother.
And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?
I’m enjoying retirement, writing books, painting and fishing out of Key West, Florida. One of my books is being considered for a Hollywood film, “The Coffee Cartel,” available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iUniverse and Kindle. I’ve also had the luxury of Chartering Fishing trips, as wanted.
Can you tell us a bit about your military background?
I had boot camp in San Diego, California and afternoon was assigned to the U.S.S. KAWISHIWI, stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The ship was an Oiler, chaired with servicing ships at sea and a member of COMSERVPAC Fleet. I was later transferred to headquarters in Pearl Harbor for shore duty in 1961, prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was very concerned that I would be called into wartime service and possibly go to the Atlantic or the Straits of Florida.
Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?
The most interesting story is also the most threatening. The two weeks before the Cuban Missile Crisis. That period taught me that no matter how dire things may appear; resolution is always possible! I was terribly afraid that I would be called upon to ship to Cuba for War and possible nuclear annihilation.
We are interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.
The heroism I witnessed was from afar and indirect and was attributable to President Kennedy and his reports that cleverly diverted nuclear annihilation by swapping missiles in Turkey for those in Cuba and Khrushchev bought it! Thank God, as prayers were answered, and my involvement eliminated.
Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?
I heard about a hero while I was in the Navy; it was John F. Kennedy. In my opinion, a hero is a person that faces adversity head-on and is willing to sacrifice one’s self to save others.
Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business or leadership? Can you explain?
Absolutely: Order and discipline are key to military success and I learned that they are also required for business success. Employees respond and productivity improves when employees see order and they welcome discipline if coupled with caring and compassion. Strict enforcement of Safety Rules and regulations are essential disciplinary components of any successful operation.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My mother instilled faith, caring and patience early in my life. Those beliefs helped sustain me during the stressful two weeks prior to the day that the Cuban Missile Crisis was averted.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out how to survive and thrive in crisis. How would you define a crisis?
Faith that God would guide leaders to abate the crisis, like the Cuban Missile, Pearl Harbor or Corona Virus. A crisis is anything that threatens you or your fellowman’s survival.
Before a crisis strikes, what should business owners and leaders think about and how should they plan?
Contingency plans must be in place for predictable scenarios, like financial, explosion, fire and medical to name a few.
There are opportunities to make the best of every situation and it’s usually based on how you frame it. In your opinion or experience, what’s the first thing people should do when they first realize they are in a crisis situation? What should they do next?
PRAY! Be patient, calm and try and anticipate a course of action to satisfy the Hierarchy of Needs. Satisfy physiological and safe needs first!
What do you believe are the characteristics or traits needed to survive a crisis?
You should be faith-based (no matter what your faith) because faith is the foundation of confidence. Your ability to cope with the crisis will also be easier if you are healthy; physically and mentally. There are always choices and rigorous requirements that should be adhered to; whether it’s evacuation for hurricanes or quarantine for viral pandemics. It’s crucial to follow guidance provided by those most knowledgeable in crisis management.
When you think of those traits, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
Trying to get a college degree. I flunked out of Liberal Arts at the U of A on my first attempt due to the conflict of being a musician, making good money, meeting girls, and the self-esteem from being an entertainer. I tried again, this time in Business, but the draw of entertaining “on-the-road” interfered and I flunked out again. My band toured the Northwest US and I met my wife in Oregon. It was serious business from then on. I sold my drums for the tuition back at the U of A.
The third time was the charm and my wife the catalyst to maintain straight A’s, work as a CO-OP student and get scholarships to carry me to graduation in 1971.
Here is the main question of our discussion. Crises not only have the potential to jeopardize and infiltrate your work, but they also threaten your emotional stability and relationships. Based on your military experience, what are 5 steps that someone can take to survive and thrive in these situations? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Pray and have faith that the crisis will eventually be averted.
- Stay Calm.
- Plan for worst-case scenarios.
- Be patient, care for loved ones first and others after.
Ok. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Look to the Five Steps above.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
I would love to have breakfast with President Trump. In my opinion, he has worked tirelessly and effectively to lessen the deadly effects of the Corona Virus. He (like President Kennedy in 1962 when he averted the Cuban Missile Crisis), will be successful with Corona by assuring the lowest number of lives lost.
How can our readers follow you online?
I can be reached at: [email protected]
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was truly uplifting.