Nicholson: Um, Kathy, I’ll tell you that we went to alternate ways. Sometimes it went toilet paper. Sometimes there were other things. Without getting too graphic, some were better than others. But I think for the most part, if we didn’t have nice, squishy rolls of toilet paper, we had something that, uh, that took care of the job.
Gilsinan: So did you find the supply chains actually more reliable when you were in Afghanistan versus now? What are the challenges you see now that you didn’t see then?
Nicholson: No, I think the supply chain is reliable, and my sense is that we don’t have a shortage of toilet paper—people are not using more toilet paper than they did a month ago. They’re just hoarding it somewhere. I know that paper-product manufacturers are cranking out more. And our job is to just keep pushing product out there.
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Gilsinan: How are you keeping your employees safe because they have to be out there?
Nicholson: The two biggest things for us are accomplish the mission and take care of your people. In the Marine Corps, I used to talk about [how those are the only two] reasons we have leaders and officers.
We’re going to great lengths to keep our folks healthy. So far we’ve been incredibly fortunate; at this point, we’re zero COVID-19 positive. We are getting people tested, and anybody that doesn’t feel great doesn’t even think about coming to work.
But from 32 different locations, every day there’s issues you’re trying to solve, and you make the best decisions that you can. In a lot of ways, the combat analogies are [apt]. You never have perfect intel on the battlefield. You think you’ve got a pretty good idea of what the enemy’s doing, but you don’t have perfect intel. And it’s the same thing here; we never have perfect intel, and our team is out there walking into stores every day delivering. Success is entirely based on our people and their ability to do their job and [keeping] them healthy. So we’re doing everything we can.
Gilsinan: How have the protocols for your drivers changed day-to-day?
Nicholson: The trucks are rolling; they’ve got plenty of hand sanitizer; they’ve got wipes. After each delivery, [the drivers] go through a sanitation process where everything they touch, they clean. So even in the store, they’re wiping down the areas they’re in.
Gilsinan: What else reminds you of the Afghanistan experience?
Nicholson: Our guys intuitively understand their critical role in the crisis here. The other thing is, for teammates that are potentially exposed, are we providing the best care? You know, how are we rapidly responding to situations where somebody may have come in contact? The same way we focused on immediate medical attention, the “golden hour,” trying to take care of our marines. The “golden hour” in Iraq and Afghanistan was the sense that if you could get a wounded marine into resuscitative care surgery within an hour, his chance of surviving increased exponentially. If it took more than an hour, then his chances of survival diminished significantly.