I have run my business for roughly 20 years- successfully by most measures. The tough times, though few, have taught me a lot. The mistakes I made have taught even harder lessons. While the current crisis is by many estimations just beginning, the last 6 weeks have brought new insights on business to light.
Surviving as a business in the time of COVID-19 was a top priority but, based on my recent experiences, I have uncovered some basic strategies that have helped my teams to do impactful work and stay very productive. Of course, it does not hurt that we have been designated as a critical business- we sell and service equipment that runs telecom facilities, hospitals, and data centers.
Healthcare speaks for itself in terms of being essential, and I am proud to support the brave women and men on the front lines of this unprecedented emergency. I have been very thankful for access to streaming video services and food delivery made possible by our modern and robust data center providers. Most people are not able to “WFH” and educate their children without the miracle of the network and video conferencing software.
While we are not breaking any growth records; we are operating efficiently, our teams are serving clients safely and collaborating better than ever. Here is what I have found to make the most difference:
Technology- I have always been a believer that the best tool a business has to create growth and scale is technology in the form of computing, software, and mobile devices.
We have invested heavily in arming our associates with the latest devices and applications, all supported by a virtual 24×7 help desk. On Thursday, March 12, 2020, we held an all-hands call telling my 27 employees that they were no longer required to be in the office. That required us to do absolutely nothing different on the Friday that followed. There were minor headaches that are easily solvable- things like additional home monitors (take what you want) and printers, but for the most part, business just went on.
We were in the middle of a major fork-lift style CRM upgrade replacing a legacy application with a brand shiny new SalesForce application. We launched this remotely, trained our teams remotely, and ran our entire back office on this incredible platform.
My experience is this- there are plenty of ways to save money in your business, but you should NEVER be behind the technology curve. It is like racing cars without the advantage of turbocharging.
Teams- I tried to do everything myself. I made the best effort I could to lead and mentor all my employees. It doesn’t scale, and when you move to a decentralized environment- it falls apart.
My leadership team has divided and we have conquered our inefficiencies. By creating functional working teams and establishing a clear team leader with the necessary authority, we have been able to stay fast, nimble, and connected. Our team leaders meet virtually with their teams once a day, I meet with the leaders 3 times per week. I have never been more relaxed or confident in the health of my business.
A wise friend once told me that routine will set you free, and the routine of a daily team huddle has been universally accepted. We all invest 15 minutes each morning to share information so that we are free the rest of the day to delight customers, collaborate individually, and work on our own projects. The benefit of these “huddles” is two-fold. Primarily, the small team group size allows for collaboration and dissemination, but just as importantly they eliminate the need to hold inefficient weekly sales meetings at our office location which burned too much time, fuel, and energy.
Right-size your teams, find a strong team leader, and take back your most precious resource- TIME.
Trust- This goes both ways. I trust my employees- they care for my customers, they complete their work with integrity, and they try to strike a happy work/life balance. I think they trust me. No one has missed a paycheck, and whether they see it or not, my conservative fiscal management has put my company in a position to weather this storm with minimum risk. I want these women and men to succeed. I want them to stay safe. This is our implied relationship of trust.
This one is simple for me. If you do not trust your employees, you have the wrong people, if they don’t trust you, you have a bigger problem. Be the type of boss you would go to work for.
I am clearly not a captain of industry. I am a small business owner. I work hard (along with my brother and partner) to run a business that delights our customers, helps our employees live fulfilling lives, and creates shareholder returns. I am confident that my smart and capable team can work with me to handle all the challenges presented in this time of crisis.
Be cautious, be confident, and be as hopeful as I am that our economy will roar back to life in the months to come.
President and Owner
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