In areas of the world that first reported cases of COVID-19 (China, South Korea) we are seeing not only a “flattening of the curve” but life itself taking on a more normal look. If we remain diligent in our approach here in the United States, I think we can expect to see similar results.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing John Sooker.
John Sooker was appointed Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of Servpro Industries, LLC, in 2019. He began his SERVPRO career in 2010 as the National Accounts Division Manager.
John began his career in Public Accounting, spending five years at KPMG in audit, tax, and consulting practices specializing in the banking and real estate sectors. He spent 12 years at Louisiana-Pacific Corporation as a member of the senior management team. Prior to SERVPRO, he was President/CEO of Treo Consulting, which specialized in strategic planning and business development services for large and mid-cap companies. He has been a frequent speaker at facility and risk management events covering topics such as emergency preparedness, disaster recovery, and business interruption.
John earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from Florida Atlantic University.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Igrew up in Long Island, N.Y., received my Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from Florida Atlantic University and spent the first five years of my career in public accounting with KPMG. I then spent the next twenty or so years of my career with a few different companies in building products manufacturing, predominantly in operations roles. I joined SERVPRO in 2010 as the National Accounts Division Manager and was named COO in 2019, which has provided a great opportunity to lead the day-to-day operational execution of the company, utilizing my previous experiences.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I really liked and learned a lot from Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf.
It taught me that by prioritizing and helping other people reach their goals, you will be viewed as a partner in their success. Ultimately, that has an enormous positive impact on the culture and effectiveness of an organization.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective, can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons to Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- In areas of the world that first reported cases of COVID-19 (i.e. China, South Korea) we are seeing not only a “flattening of the curve” but life itself taking on a more normal look. If we remain diligent in our approach here in the United States, I think we can expect to see similar results.
- We have significant economic resources at the federal, state and local to support those individuals and families affected by the virus.
- As a country, we have demonstrated an unmatched resiliency to get through difficult times — whether it be a pandemic, terrorism, wars, etc. The American entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well as we work together — public and private sector — to solve this crisis.
- As in many other times when our mettle has been put to the test, we see people engaged in unbelievable acts of kindness and generosity who have inspired millions. This empathetic and culturally enlightening activity cannot be understated in its ability to positively alter the perspective of our people.
- Lastly, over 80% of the cases are mild, and many people with symptoms fully recover. Of course, we must remain diligent in flattening the curve and sympathetic to those who experience health hardship from this. But this will pass, and life will return to normal.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Awareness: Be empathetic to those around you — many things we take for granted (health, economics, education, etc.) are turned upside down right now.
- Availability: Be there if someone needs you.
- Action: Try to encourage a routine — exercising, consistent sleep patterns similar to pre-COVID, etc.
- Avoid: Do not obsess over the news, get regular updates but don’t be tuned in 24/7.
- Align: Be deliberate in your support for those who are experiencing anxiety.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
I first recommend seeking support from your family. They know you best and likely know where your ‘safe place’ is. If necessary, reach out to a medical professional.
During this time of quarantine and shelter at home, connect regularly with friends, family and business associates via phone, email and social media.
Do not obsess over the news. Get the updates you need, but do not tune in to a 24/7 cycle as it will likely create even more anxiety.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“A desk (office) is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” (Attributed to John LeCarre, British author)
While the current circumstances with COVID make the meaning behind this quote challenging, it’s one that begs of engagement and connection away from the confinement of the corporate office. The real business world is in the markets, with your customers, in the plants and facilities. Now, more than ever, we need to find creative ways to ‘be’ in those locations, albeit virtually, so those stakeholders can sense your presence and connectivity. That helps them know you support them and continue to help solve problems that arise daily.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂
I would require that Servant Leadership be taught in every discipline in higher education.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?