COVID-19 Is Reshaping Business: 6 Tips For Coming Back Even Stronger
Like many of you, at Carson Wealth, we’ve been working remotely from our homes for weeks now. While social distancing and hunkering down at home feels strange to most of us, I’ve noticed that one of our team members has had a particularly tough time adjusting. A social animal by nature, she’s always the first to greet team members and clients coming through the door and spends a large part of her day roaming the office, checking on everyone’s wellbeing. Like all of us, she misses the camaraderie of the workplace, the natural ebb and flow of the workday, and most especially, her coworker’s friendly faces.
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While she continues to do an admirable job as Chief Comfort Officer, I can tell this period of forced separation has been challenging for her. Nonetheless, she’s proved to be the most universally missed member of our team. I’m talking about my black Labrador Retriever and all-round best girl, Nelly.
I have to admit that I find it that both somewhat disturbing and very comforting that people miss Nelly more than they miss me. The ‘disturbing’ part I chalk up to ego. I spend a lot of time on Zoom these days, video conferencing with clients and team members. They all want to see and talk to Nelly. Just once it would be nice if someone said, “Aw, there you are, Ron! Look at you! I miss you so much. Get closer to the camera. Let me see that pretty face!” (We should all be missed as much as Nelly is missed.)
The comforting part is seeing that the years of hard work and planning my team and I have put into the business continues to pay off, especially at this time. While it’s rendered me ‘essentially nonessential’ to the day-to-day operations of the business—that was the whole point. If Nelly’s in higher demand than I am, I’ve done something right.
Often, one of the hardest lessons for entrepreneurs is understanding why it’s so important to get out of your own way—and your team’s way—to succeed in business. That’s especially true now as business leaders across industries and sectors embrace bold change and seek creative ways to respond and adapt to today’s rapidly changing business environment. Doing so requires hiring the best people you can find and allowing them to make corporate decisions. That requires fostering a culture steeped in trust and forgiveness, and continual planning and investment in the business.
However, getting there isn’t easy. In the past, I’ve shared some of the powerful (and often, painful) lessons I’ve learned over more than 30 years as a business owner. Some of these are worth revisiting now as business owners assess and seek to strengthen their business continuity plans and consider how they may reopen their businesses in the days and weeks ahead. Each of these lessons has played a critical role in laying the groundwork necessary to allow my team to seamlessly provide our clients with the same high level of care during this unusual time. I hope some of these learnings may prove useful to you as well.
- Don’t be a micro-manager. Early in my career as a business owner, I had to have my finger on everything, no matter how insignificant. Not only was I on my way to burn out as a result, my team wasn’t able to perform at its highest level. If you have to have the final word on everything, eventually, people don’t even want to try. More importantly, you don’t allow people to emerge and grow. An important question all business leaders need to ask themselves is, “Are you a micromanager or are you surrounding yourself with the best people you can find and getting out of their way?”
- Surround yourself with engines, not anchors. Intuitively, we all know that we have to surround ourselves with great people. Yet, there was a time when I felt threatened by people who were smarter than me. As the leader of the firm, I was supposed to be the smartest cookie in the jar, right? Wrong. I was missing the point entirely. For a business to grow and succeed, it’s critical to hire people who are smarter than you when it comes to their areas of expertise. Recognize that you can’t be an expert on everything, and let the experts do their jobs.
- Create a culture of forgiveness over failure. It’s imperative to create a culture where creativity thrives. Looking back, it’s clear to me that I inadvertently stifled creativity by not giving people a safe environment to ask for forgiveness instead of permission. If you surround yourself with the best people, believe in them. They’ll prove their worth every time. As Sir Richard Branson once said, “Train people well enough so they can leave, but treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”
- Plan proactively. In business and in life, nothing will render your goals obsolete faster than complacency. Proactive planning begins with understanding what changes are necessary in order to reach your next level. For a business owner, that may mean getting ahead of industry trends or adopting new technologies or ways of delivering value to your clients.
- Embrace and invest heavily in technology. I always thought we were innovative and heavy users of technology. In reality, we under-invested in technology. I first realized we weren’t fast enough followers when a long-term client said they loved us and would always stay with us, but their kids wouldn’t because we’d become irrelevant. Although we had invested a lot of money in technology, it didn’t matter if we weren’t backing it up with the people who could implement it to achieve a tremendous integrated experience for our clients and stakeholders. Now more than ever, we’re seeing how important it is businesses across industries and sectors to adopt a culture that embraces technology and enables people to use that technology in new ways to deliver client and stakeholder value. And if you have to tell them how to do it, you have the wrong people.
- Take care of yourself. Finally, you must be selfish in order to be selfless. This rule applies to many areas of life. You can’t be valuable to the people that count on you without first taking care of yourself. I’m a longtime believer in exercising regularly and eating healthy. Today, taking steps to protect your health is more important than ever. Faced with the coronavirus pandemic, that also means taking steps to help keep others healthy, within our own families and workplaces, and throughout our communities—washing your hands, wearing a mask in public as appropriate, and social distancing. Take care of yourself and you’ll make strides in being a more effective leader, colleague, parent, spouse, and member of your community.
In the months ahead, businesses will be challenged to adapt to new ways of delivering on the changing needs of clients, consumers, and the marketplace at large. This may include adopting new technologies, service delivery methods, and e-commerce tools. While none of us can predict with certainty how or when this pandemic will end, or the long-term impact it may have on individual businesses or the global economy, we can control how we respond to and embrace change going forward for the benefit of our teams, customers and stakeholders.
I’m sure Nelly will agree…just as soon as she wakes up from her nap.
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