Column: Fighting Coronavirus Inch by Inch

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This week marks week four of social distancing in NYC and my third month as Chief Operating Officer at Ackman-Ziff. The events over the past few weeks have been a shock to both the economy and to humanity. As I am sure this phenomenon has been difficult for you and your colleagues; navigating the pandemic has not been straightforward. Current media coverage of reported cases does not help to dissipate fears regarding personal health and safety. From a business standpoint, the impact of this monstrosity on the economy is still to be determined. Luckily for Ackman-Ziff, we have been prepared to weather this storm through prudent measures and lessons learned in 2008.  However, many businesses, especially in the retail and hospitality sectors, have not been as fortunate. My thoughts go out to friends, colleagues, families who have experienced COVID-19 firsthand or through a loved one, and as more and more businesses close their doors and thousands of workers are laid off, I often wonder when this madness will slow down.

As I reminisce the events leading up to this widespread pandemic, I remain extremely grateful to the proactive and intelligent team that makes up the fabric of Ackman-Ziff.  Our leadership team was, and continues to be, extremely proactive by checking in on each other and researching and communicating guidance from the CDC, WHO, local and state legislators.  We made bold decisions at the firm to minimize any chances of our employees contracting COVID-19, and at the risk of declining business activity, we were one of the first real estate capital markets firms to encourage people to work from home.  In hindsight, we made prudent, levelled decisions to ensure the health and well-being of our people, and from a financial perspective, we have done so as well. We keep a healthy level of cash reserved for unprecedented situations such as this one.  We are constantly monitoring our business, our relationships, and how we can help our clients solve complex challenges with creative solutions. We continue to close new business, and I commend every team member for their continued dedication to the business and our collective success.

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This pandemic has brought people together in different ways.  As our personal and professional lives are beginning to blend, our interactions with friends, clients, and colleagues – limited to virtual tools – are evolving as well.  Our team has been flexible to these new standards of working from home – some of us are sharing small workspaces with significant others, others have young children causing distractions we would never face in the office.  We cannot forget those who live alone and rely solely on virtual technologies for human interaction. No one is immune to the potential effects of social isolation and cabin fever, and we encourage our teams to focus on the positive through meditation and exercise.  We have successfully conducted virtual team meetings with full attendance and voluntary Friday happy hours and I have observed the fluidity between personal and professional conversations as our team begins to know one another on a deeper level. I am confident that once the tide has turned, the Ackman-Ziff team will bounce back stronger than ever before.  I am hopeful that society does the same.

In the words of Al Pacino, “We can fight our way back into the light.  We can [and we will], climb out of hell. One inch at a time.”