Sitting on the beach sipping ice tea (or ice Americano sometimes) I’ve noticed how people are enjoying themselves. Some are tanning themselves on the beach and others are swimming in the water.  Even though the news is preoccupied with Covid 19, many people have gotten on with their lives. The daily  infection count  in the US for Covid the other day was increasing it still was not as high as it was.   In essence vaccines have worked.  Perhaps herd immunity is developing in the US and elsewhere.  Though there is talk about the Delta variant, so far the number of serious infections have decreased in the US.    So, it appears that maybe the worst of the pandemic is behind us, at least in the countries that have access to the vaccine.

There are a number of lessons I think that people should have learned during the pandemic.  One of the lessons is that all things shall eventually pass.  Pandemics eventually pass.   Catastrophes eventually pass.  Even careers and businesses eventually pass.  Of course all of us will eventually pass too.  People will eventually go back to their regular lives.  Daily concerns will eventually trump concerns about Covid.  In essence, whether retired or not, people will need to think about the long haul not just short term concerns and short term problems.

If you are managing a business you should realize that in many parts of the world, businesses are opening up again especially in the hospitality sector.  The travel industry also as well.  If you are a risk manager or in-house counsel, you should realize that to a certain extent things are going back to semi-normal which means you have to think about the issues you faced before the pandemic as well as issues you will face post pandemic.  It appears many office workers were more productive in the office than working at home.  Are you prepared to go back to the office?  Are your employees ready to go back to the office?

Knowing the pandemic shall pass means you need to prepare for the long haul.  If you manage a business- did your business plan survive?  Did your marketing plan work?  What legal issues presented themselves and were you prepared for them?  Are you prepared for business and legal risks after the pandemic? 

I think the Covid pandemic has shown how resilient the human race is.  It has shown society in general that it is not a long term threat as much as a short term threat (the vaccines appear to be working and were introduced 1 year after the major outbreaks which shows how far science has come) which means life for many will eventually go back to normal.

So remember, to be successful you have to think about the long haul.  Sure short term problems will arise, but they eventually pass.   Think about the long haul.  Think about long term issues and concerns. Are you ready for the future?

Retiring to Busan from Seoul has guaranteed I would be next to water. Currently I am on Gwangali Beach (actually sipping ice coffee from a nearby coffee shop) enjoying the beach. Though it is hot outside (33 C) I am near the ocean which means there is a slight breeze coming off the water. Having a breeze when it is 33 C outside is nice. Watching people on jet skis and sailboats gliding by is also nice. As I am not working, I don’t have to wear a suit and am instead wearing shorts which is one of the perks when you retire- you don’t need to dress up but can in fact dress down. I hope to wear my tailored suits again someday but am not too concerned. Though I planned this escape to Busan for a while I am still amazed it has come to pass. I reached this retirement goal of living on a beach in Korea because of several reasons. Long term planning, setting goals, and of course having the goddess of fortune smile down upon me. Getting to this place has required planning, taking action, taking chances and moving forward even though I felt like stopping at times. Fortune came my way when I started to take chances and made the effort to change my life.

Looking back, my career (actually several careers) had ups and downs but at the end concluded successfully. Though I’ve constantly reminded my colleagues that what they need is a long term plan, I never really voiced my opinion that taking chances (which means taking action) is just as important. One of the reasons I had a very successful career was the fact I took chances and recognized the potential opportunities that presented themselves as a result of my taking action. All of the people I know who have had successful careers (legal, business, etc.) all took chances and all took action. Look around you. I assume that the people you know that are successful in life all had to take chances and all had to actually take action.

Taking chances and action are just as important as long term planning or goal setting. However, before you set goals you need to think about the direction you want to go in. I know a number of lawyers who burned out and dropped out of the practice of law. Perhaps if they figured out what they liked or were interested in, they may have gone in a different direction or stayed in the legal profession (which is quite large) and gone in a slightly different area of law. That goes for those in other professions or careers. If you do something you like or at least understand the areas you are interested in you can then set goals, plan ahead and then take chances when opportunities come your way. For those who don’t know what to do or feel stuck, a career coach may be advisable. Or simply sitting down with your peers and asking for advice. If you are lucky enough to have a mentor, take advantage of that fact and sit down with your mentor. He or she may point you in a new direction but that maybe what you need.

In retirement, there are few really pressing needs. There is no longer an office to go to or a deadline to meet. In fact, I am at a coffee shop overlooking one of my favorite beaches sipping an ice tea. Time therefore takes on a different meaning than for many people caught up in the daily rat race. But in fact it should serve to remind you that to be successful you need to set goals and take chances. Come up with a plan but don’t be afraid to veer from it if opportunities present themselves. Things tend to unfold gradually not instantly. It may take a while to see where you are going, but you may be able to at least know you are going forward to your dreams. What are your dreams? Have you thought about that?

If you are in business, look down the road. What are the business trends for 5 years from now that you see? What about 10 years from now? To be successful you need to see long term business trends and cycles. If you are practicing law, look down the road. What areas of law will be hot 5 years from now? Are you positioned to take advantage of it? Sure you need to think about tomorrow, but more importantly, you need to think about 5-10 years from now! Have you thought about your long term marketing plan? What are your 5 or 10 year goals? Are you doing what you like? If not, why not? Are you getting the experience you need? If not, why not? What should you do to get the experience you need?

Everyone needs a long term plan. But to get to where you eventually want to be, you need to also take chances and also take action. Don’t just sit at the computer all day wishing you were doing something different. Do something different. So my advice is as follows:

Start thinking about what you want to do or where you want to be in 5 years
Start developing goals to get you where you want to be in 5 years
Start taking action to implement your goals
Start taking chances to meet your goals
Start taking the opportunities that come your way once you start taking action

It all begins when you start taking chances.

Recently, I celebrated Father's Day on the beach! I am close to retirement and have just re-located from Seoul to Busan. Actually to Gwangali Beach in Busan to be precise. The sun is out and the weather very nice. A great time to be at the beach. The beach is crowded today so I am enjoying the beach from a nearby coffee shop. But tomorrow is a week day and I assume the beach wont be that busy. A nice part of retirement is the fact you no longer have to worry about time. I can always enjoy the beach on a weekday instead of just the weekend. I look forward to enjoying my time, not having to worry about deadlines.

Soon I will join the ranks of retired workers. My career as a lawyer will more or less be over unless my consulting business takes off. It will be time to reflect on my career, visit my kids and grandkids in the US and spend more time with my lovely wife…..of course she has her own business to run so perhaps she wont have much time to spend with me right now. My wife asked me the other day what I thought of the fact I will retire soon. My legal career ends after 40 plus years. My career- primarily with Korean companies comes to a close. I think all of us in the professional space expect to leave our respective professions a little better off when we retire. We hope that we have mentored enough younger professionals to make a difference. At least that is what I hope for as a lawyer, in-house counsel and law professor. Many of us think perhaps that we can last forever and that we should stay in the game until we die. I however don’t. I hope to pass on my knowledge in some form or fashion, but for many of us who built our careers in-house, retirement at 65 is the most likely scenario.

Looking back, I think one of life’s lessons is not to get caught up in the small stuff. Enjoy the moment if you can. Don’t get too stressed out…after all our time is limited. Enjoy the people and things around you. The office will always be there. Work will always be there, whether you feel like working or not. Some people live for work, but I would rather work to live. Time is what we only have so why waste it if we can avoid it. Sure, everyone wants to start a business and see it grow. But is growing a business the only measure of success? Is working 80 hours a week for a company or someone else's business worth it? These are questions you should ask yourself.

A number of my friends and colleagues have told me they envy the fact I am retiring. Some of them are very successful and could probably retire if they wanted too. But some of them have gotten caught up in the work till you drop mentality. Obviously, to some of them having a successful law practice or successful business is the definition of success. Some of them may have forgotten how to have fun have forgotten how to enjoy themselves. Some may only equate success with work. But is that true?

I may or may not decide to work part time or have a part time consulting business in the future. It will be on my own terms though. But right now I am content to think about retirement while sipping a glass of ice tea.

Cheers!

I am getting ready for retirement. It will happen in a month. It really hasn’t hit me yet- but I know I will soon no longer have an office to go to everyday or an office in which to store things. In fact , looking around my office I realize I have files, books and even documents going back 40 years…spanning my career. In essence, clutter.

I am in the process of decluttering my house. My wife and I decided this time around (we have moved six or seven times in the course of our marriage) to do our best to throw out clutter. To go minimalistic if we can. What is clutter you might ask? I think it is stuff that is no longer relevant. Stuff that won’t be used or appreciated. Stuff that will take up space but that we really no longer need in our daily lives. Take clothes for instance. Many of us buy clothes because they are on sale. They are so cheap we have to buy them. We use them once, put them in a closet and then never wear them again. The clothes are irrelevant. We don’t wear them. In fact- we don’t even look at them. They get buried amongst other clothes or pushed into the back of the closet or clothes chest…never to see the light of day. They have become stuff or clutter.

I’ve read from several retirement experts that you should start going through your stuff a good 1-2 years before you retire. It may take that long to get rid of the clutter that has built up in your home. But what about your office? Have you considered that most of the books in your office might be obsolete? Your old documents may be irrelevant. You may have packed your office over time with clutter. Even though you are not up for retirement it still might be worthwhile to take a good look at your office. How many name cards to you have of people you will never call or email? Cards tend to build up over time, especially if you go to networking events. I’ve found over the last few years that most networking events only result in a few good contacts. But the name cards pile up.

Thinking about clutter, I think many organizations allow clutter to build up as well. How many corporate processes, compliance or risk management processes clutter up the organization that have become obsolete or irrelevant? How many documents are in the corporate database that are never used? What about data? Does IT know where all the data is and whether the data is relevant? Are there procedures in place to remove data that has become irrelevant? Maybe it is time your organization declutter itself. Look at your corporate subscriptions to third party reports, memberships, newsletters and magazines. Are they cluttering up your organization? Do you really need a membership to an organization that has become irrelevant to your business? Has your business model changed? If so, many of your processes and documents may indeed be clutter. Time to review your risk management processes.

I am going to continue to review my files. Some I will keep but most are no longer relevant now I am retiring. In fact, looking at most of my old files, books and other belongings I realize they were always just stuff. Time to declutter my office.

It’s my day off. Though I am retiring soon I am taking a few days off here and there to take care of personal business before I depart the workplace. Of course they now have more work for me to do prior to my leaving. Well today they have to find someone else. I am always amazed that when I take a day off I am hit with work requests and when I am in the office…not so much. Ha-ha!

Having the day off also allows me to look around and contemplate my surroundings. I am not distracted and can be more present or mindful. I think it’s a good idea for those in the workplace to take a day off now and then and just look around. Everyone should ask questions and consider their current environment.

I am looking at Itaewon while sipping a cup of coffee. Yes..I am at a coffee shop in the Itaewon district of Seoul. Things are changing fast. Covid has really cause havoc. Many shops are closed. The bars and restaurants catering to the expat community are slowly closing or scaling back. The neighborhood known for its international focus is changing. It’s becoming more of a younger Korean focused area. I see buildings going up with no tenants and expat bars and shops closing. Times are changing.

Change happens in all of our lives. The old neighborhood may not be what it was. The city itself may be changing. And of course the country. We all have to ask ourselves if we are willing to change as well. For me of course, retirement will bring change. A change in my surroundings a change in lifestyle and a change in my perspective on life. I think everyone should realize that change is really constant. Embrace change or suffer the consequences. People get to caught up in the regular day to day tasks that they have that they don’t look around and notice how their environment is really changing.

For those in the workplace, take a look around. What changes do you see happening? Are you ready for change or not? Are you taking steps to stay relevant in today’s ultra-fast changing world? Are your skills still relevant or do they need upgrading? Like it or not, AI, VR and the blockchain will change how we work as well as what jobs and services are still relevant. If you run a company, are your products and services still relevant or do you need to change your product mix or even your business model? What about your internal compliance processes or your risk management processes? The forces causing change in today’s society will not stop. So it is up to everyone to understand change and adapt.

The only thing constant in life besides death and taxes happens to be change.

Of all the risks facing companies in today’s business world, reputational risk is one of the most serious. Reputational risk can not only damage a company’s brand, but can even lead to the demise of the company. It is of primary importance to executives, in-house counsel and risk managers in many multinational companies and is seen as one of the top risks a company may face. In fact, in Aon’s 2019 t Global Risk Management Survey, it is one of the top risks that are of concern to companies. Deloitte surveyed companies as well and found out that the majority of companies it surveyed rated reputational risk as more important than strategic risk. Many of those surveyed acknowledged they had suffered a brand risk or reputational risk event that resulted in a loss of brand value or a loss of earnings.

Damages caused by reputational or brand risk events are not tied to just domestic related issues. Approximately half of the executives that Kroll polled for its recent Global Fraud Report opined that their companies are at risk of vendor, supplier, or procurement fraud tied to overseas expansion. Many of those surveyed felt their companies were highly or moderately vulnerable to corruption and bribery risks which can of course lead to reputational risk or loss of brand as well as FCPA investigations and fines. According to the respondents in the Kroll Global Fraud Report, ethics and integrity (or lack thereof) was the major cause of reputational risk.

The reputational risk caused by supply chain issues can escalate out of control unless properly managed. Loss of brand value can happen quickly if a fraudulent event becomes public or if a bribery scandal is publicized in the media. Just look at the some of the crisis that happened over the last decade. Many people have been affected (some have died) because of the crises or mega-crises that have happened. Many of them also included reputational risks as well. Examples include:

The financial and housing collapse and major recession of 2008

Toyota implicated in recalls because of brake issues

Major Banks having their credit card customers’ names stolen by computer hackers

Volkswagen was implicated in a pollution emissions scandal

Target’s customers had personal data stolen due to lax security systems. Over 40 million
Credit and debit card customers effected

Sony Pictures- Sony as well as its employees had confidential information stolen

As you can see from the examples above, there are numerous kinds of crises that a company should be prepared to handle, especially in an international context. Among them are financial crises, natural disasters including pandemics, product failures, workplace violence, cyber-attack, or hacking, and, of course, terrorism. However, most if not all have resulted in serious reputational crisis which also led to legal risk.

It is undisputable that a major crisis can pose serious threats to a company, and, therefore, the crisis must be managed. Crises can result in (a) government fines, (b) loss of retailer confidence, (c) loss of investor confidence, (d) loss of employee confidence, and (e) massive litigation, including class actions. In other words, the end of the company! Crises also result in reputational risks or damage to the company’s brand which may have a greater effect on the company’s bottom line than the damage caused by the original crisis itself.

The problem facing any risk manager or in-house counsel is that the media in today’s society has become very anti-business. As this anti-business culture of attack has gotten worse over the last twenty years, a crisis can no longer be handled by a simple PR or marketing statement. A full-fledged crisis management operation must be put in place. Damage control is now a very serious matter for any potential crisis, no matter how small. Today, more and more companies have to consider issues that negatively affect the company’s brand and how best to counteract them.

Key considerations when considering potential brand or reputational risk caused by ethical or fraudulent behavior within the company or within the company’s supply chain:

-Compliance- does the Company have a compliance program and is it up to date?
-Compliance- does the Compliance program and code of conduct promote an ethical culture within the company?
-Supply Chain- has the Company’s vendors involved in the supply chain been vetted? Do they follow the Company’s code of conduct? Do they have compliance programs?
-Are there sound corporate governance and control processes in place?

Major considerations for handling brand risk once a crisis has started includes:

-Is there a Crisis Management Plan in place to handle brand risk once a crisis starts?
-Does the Company have an effective internal investigation process in place that may shorten the time taken to discover internal risks and mitigate reputational harm?
-Have the appropriate decision makers been trained to handle PR and media issues once a crisis has occurred?
-Does the Company have appropriate 3rd party consultants, including risk management companies and media crisis companies in place to help mitigate reputational/brand risk once a crisis event takes place?
-Does the Company have an appropriate international Crisis Management Plan in place in case the crisis is international in scope?

Companies must realize that there are many risks associated with doing business internationally as well as domestically. Brand or reputational risk is very serious and can lead to the loss of money or even the destruction of a company unless the right steps to mitigate or prevent brand risk are in place. So when considering what risks should be addressed on a regular basis, remember reputational risk should be of primary importance.

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