4 Characteristics businesses need to survive
What one Denver businesses learned in navigating its company through the pandemic
If the last two months has taught me anything, it’s that in a time of extreme crisis, the people you work with really matter. I am not sure any business could have been adequately prepared for the devastating impact the coronavirus would have.
Nearly three months into this crisis, I have learned some valuable lessons about what it takes for a small company to operate effectively during this pandemic.
Our boutique investment advisory firm has adjusted smoothly thanks a combination of teamwork, flexibility, increased communication and strong leadership. Here’s a closer look at how these traits have helped us serve our clients and continue operating as normally as possible.
Sadly, one of our team members became sick with the coronavirus in mid-March. While she recovered, her husband had a tougher battle against the virus, spending more than a month in the hospital on a ventilator. Another member of our team lost a relative to the virus and most of her immediate family members became infected.
In both instances, co-workers and other members of their teams had to collectively step it up to cover for this staff member. Everyone jumped in to take over duties, fill in and help where they could. No one complained about the extra work, instead they went the extra mile out of love and compassion for their colleagues.
A crisis always means extra communication with clients but in this case, it meant calls on the weekends and sending out a weekly market update to provide insight on our changing investment strategy.
Over one weekend in March, I called 30 clients to see how they were coping mentally with the pandemic and to make sure they were healthy and safe. Secondly, I reviewed with them how much risk they were taking in terms of their asset allocation; I asked about their cash needs for the next 12 to 24 months; and I discussed what holdings they wanted to own during and after the pandemic.
Every client is different, and some were more worried than others, but everyone was appreciative of this communication effort. Our weekly updates also helped fill the gap, letting clients know how we were digesting new data and addressing changing market conditions. I think our clients feel reassured by the weekly missive. They know we are on top of things and care about them.
Even before the pandemic hit, we started encouraging staff to call in if they felt sick and prepared for a remote work scenario. Our COO ensured that everyone had the equipment and software needed to do their jobs from home and we shifted our in-person staff meetings to daily Zoom calls.
Our last full day in the office was March 12 and I am not sure when all the staff will return. Even though Gov. Polis is allowing offices to open with 50% capacity, we are giving our staff the option to continue to work from home. This is because many of them expressed concern about the potential health risks involved in returning to the office, while others are understandably worried about taking public transportation to work. Since our current system is working well, we don’t see any reason to take unnecessary risks or cause undue stress for our employees.
Once the markets began to react rapidly to the pandemic and the total shutdown of the U.S economy was inevitable, it was clear we had to shift our strategy. While investment decisions can sometimes be debated for months, we knew the situation required us to move quickly and communicate changes to staff as clearly as possible.
We discussed these investment decisions with the entire team, so they were aware of the changes and understood the motivation behind them. My partners and I met remotely frequently to ensure we were on the same page.
I believe that it is crucial to be united for your employees. They will look to you for the right answers. You need to be confident, reassuring, compassionate and honest with your staff. Since your employees deal directly with the clients, they will be asked how things are going internally. The better leadership at the top the more confident and happier your employees will be and that will be apparent to your clients when they call.
I cannot wait for things to get back to normal, whatever that might mean, but in the meantime, I feel so very fortunate to have supportive, collaborative partners. I am also really proud of how well our employees have adapted to the stress and disruption to their daily lives. They continue to put the needs of our clients first and foremost and we could not ask for more than that.
As they say, there are always silver linings in any challenge. The coronavirus is proving this each and every day.