How to Stop Your Business from Grinding to a Halt During Coronavirus
Updated: Jun 13, 2020
You shouldn’t jeopardise your health, nor your business.
With more and more employees understandably resorting to working from home, it will be a monumental challenge for managers to keep teams focused, aligned, and motivated during the weeks and months that might pass before the Coronavirus crisis is over.
Here are my top 3 tips for ensuring that your business survives - and even re-emerges stronger than it ever was!
1. Show your team and your clients that you care
Your revenue will plummet if your employees are unmotivated and your clients are scared. Here's what you should do to prevent that:
a) Support your employees
Research shows that employees are faithful to managers that care. So if your business allows it*, I encourage you to support your team members during these complex times. Some may feel safer working from home. Others might need to leave work early to go grocery shopping for elderly relatives.
b) Reassure your clients (and keep their business coming)
Even if your employees are too stoic to work from home, your clients and partners might appreciate your showing concern for them and offering options to work together without social contact. And even if they’re not worried now, you’ll want to have tried-and-tested approaches for doing business remotely, so you’re prepared for when the panic really hits (probably soon).
*Corollary: I understand that some businesses require people to work on premise (factories or supermarkets come to mind). If so, please do your research and ensure the highest levels of hygiene and safety. But think creatively, too: I also run a gym, and to our paying members we are offering daily video training that they can do without equipment in their homes, and they’re loving it!
So tell your employees, clients, and other stakeholders that they can do what they need. This will keep your revenue flowing now, and will make them more loyal to you than they ever were!
Also, reassure them that you’re set up to keep the business flowing - the next 2 points will show you how.
2. Obsess over the clarity of Strategy, Priorities, and individual Goals
An organisation that lacks clarity will crumble when all of its people are physically separated for a long time.
That’s because in-person human interactions are often get-out-of-jail free cards that mask fundamental organisational misalignments and leadership faux pas. To guarantee that isolated employees stay focused, aligned, and motivated, managers need to master these steps:
a) Strategy: state a maximum of 3-5 Strategic imperatives that apply to the whole company
The total number should never exceed 5 and they should (almost) never change. This step is the hardest and everything hinges on it. If you get it right, the following steps will be a breeze; if you get it wrong, your business will become dysfunctional.
b) Priorities: at department level, Priorities should trickle down directly from the 3-5 Strategic imperatives
Each member of each team will thus know the Priorities that they must pursue as individuals: this will be their north star when they are isolated from the rest of their team.
c) Individual Goals: writing the Priorities is not enough, it’s also essential that each team member understands them and buys into them
This is crucial and too often overlooked. Managers should have one-to-one meetings (or video calls) with each reportee and clarify each individual’s Goals, actively listen to any concern, and get explicit buy-in to pursue and prioritise these Goals. Team members will have full autonomy, but cannot replace any priority without consulting you.
Incidentally, these are the same 3 steps that I teach my corporate clients during more “normal” times - the difference is that crises are unforgiving and require flawless execution of these steps.
My guess is that your employees aren’t currently able to concisely recite the Strategic imperatives, Priorities, and Goals back to you (have you tried asking them?)
When they can do that, they will be more effective and motivated, both while working remotely and also when you all reunite after this crisis is over!
3. Master video conferencing and make it “human”
“People buy people”, both team dynamics and client relationships rely on interpersonal rapport, but maintaining rapport remotely is extremely tough.
Embrace video conference meetings and dedicate time to master its specific differences when compared with in-person meetings:
a) Familiarise yourself with the software that you are going to use
Nothing is more disruptive to a 30-minute meeting than taking 13 minutes for everyone to establish connection. If your company already has a preferred video conferencing solution, great. Otherwise, pick a solution - most free solutions will work for most small companies: Google Meet, Skype, Zoom, etc. I personally find Zoom to be the most reliable, but Google allows you to share links beforehand which is handy when you have 3 or more invitees.
b) Be strict with start times
Ideally, you should start bang on time, but with video conferencing I often allow for a few minutes. But never start more than 5 minutes late: if everyone is struggling to connect for some reason, reschedule the meeting altogether and don’t waste everybody’s time and energy. If you’re using new software, do a dry-run will all team members once, to iron out kinks, ensure that everybody has downloaded the app or set up the account, and run through the main functionality.
c) Make it fun
Start with banter, you can even standardise it by going around the room and asking people to share something funny from their day. Or play funny clips at the end, so people are incentivised to stay logged in. Mandate that everybody share their camera, always, and encourage them to be dressed casually. Remote work is intrinsically dry, so go out of your way to establish the human connection.
d) Only have essential meetings
Your regular one-on-ones with your individual team members are indeed essential (and in fact, you might even want to increase their frequency during these times). Take this opportunity to re-assess meetings that don’t feel necessary, and potentially cancel them forever: if they aren’t needed now, they will never be.
As humans, we often prefer to work or do business together in person, but this is notoriously inefficient. If you truly master video conferencing, you will streamline your operations without sacrificing rapport, and your business will continue to reap the benefits for years and years to come!
Crises test our fundamentals. No business is built on impeccable foundations, and these trying times will expose the weakest links in yours.
This is your opportunity to fix otherwise invisible issues and re-emerge ever stronger.
Management rigour is typically lacking in startups, whose bullish ambitions tend to fuel sprawling growth. But 90% of startups fail, because their own squeaky foundations eventually catch up with them.
Managing a company remotely is much harder than doing it in person: so if you get it right now, when this is all over you will best your competition, mesmerise your clients, and make way more profits that you ever did!