Published on March 17, 2021
Growing and running a business is hard (especially in the middle of a global pandemic). In the latest episodes of the firm’s video series, Next Level, Bryna Campbell, CPA, Shante Fields and Kat Sabo shared some of their top advice for businesses in 2021.
Here are just a few of the takeaways from each of their interviews.
Principal, Gross, Mendelsohn & Associates
Bryna Campbell, a senior member of Gross Mendelsohn’s audit and accounting team, had this advice for business owners: embrace change. “Too often, we see clients and business owners not willing to embrace change,” she said. The pandemic has forced many businesses to make big changes — like switching to remote work, changing operational processes, etc.
As we head to a post-pandemic business environment, it’s going to be up to business owners to decide what pandemic changes will become part of their business’s “new normal.” For example, will you allow employees to continue to work remotely, retain operational processes you’ve implemented during COVID, etc.?
Bryna encourages business owners to do a post mortem on pandemic decisions. Evaluate what had made you hesitant about making the change before COVID and whether the reason for the original hesitancy ever came to fruition. This can help you make decisions about whether to preserve changes in a post-pandemic work environment.
A more diverse workforce can lead to more creativity, innovation and an even bigger client base. As the leader of Gross Mendelsohn’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) initiative, Bryna encourages business owners to think of D&I as a strategic initiative. “People make the mistake of thinking D&I is a HR matter,” Bryna said in her Next Level interview. “In truth, it’s about your corporate culture. It's not a one and done training that you do once a year.”
In leading the D&I Committee, Bryna said she’s learned that an important step in talking about diversity is to understand unconscious bias. “Building awareness that we all have unconscious bias in some way, shape or form, and communicating how to manage that bias is a great place to start that then opens up the ability to start having bigger conversations,” she said.
Owner, Marshall Fields Consulting
Shante Fields, a professional business developer and the owner of Marshall Fields Consulting, wants business owners to remember that even if you aren’t physically handing out business cards at a virtual event, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow up afterward.
Her favorite tool for making virtual connections? LinkedIn. After a virtual event, she makes a habit of sending out LinkedIn connections and messages to invite contacts to connect over a quick virtual meeting, even if it’s just a 15-minute virtual coffee.
The pandemic has changed the way we meet and interact with professional contacts. Even though Shante misses face-to-face networking, she said the silver lining of social distancing has been being able to meet with contacts in smaller blocks of time.
“It used to be that for a coffee meeting, you’d have to travel to the meeting, then you have the meeting, then you have to travel back,” Shante said in her interview on Next Level. Virtual meetings have allowed her to schedule back-to-back meetings even when a contact might be in a different state.
When in-person events resume, it’s safe to say that virtual meetings and networking aren’t going away. Businesses should plan to keep making virtual connections, even when the pandemic is over, giving you even more opportunities to expand your network.
When I asked Shante her advice on avoiding technology fails (like the Texas attorney who couldn’t remove the cat filter), her advice was simple: check the mirror. “If you were going to a face-to-face meeting, you’d check the mirror, right?” she said. “You have to do the same thing virtually.”
By that she means, log into every virtual meeting five minutes early. This can give you time to test your video and sound, ensure you’re logged in under the right screen name and allow you to change or blur your background.
“Technology isn’t going anywhere,” Shante said. She recommends spending time on different platforms and practicing with the controls. Practicing with virtual meeting tools can help you avoid technology issues down the road (and maybe even save you from becoming a viral video).
President, Budova Engineering
Kat Sabo, the president of Budova Engineering, thinks one silver lining of the pandemic is the blending of personal and professional. The past year has shown us the human element of those we work with, whether it's kids running in the frame or dogs barking in the background.
Kat said she’s on a mission to get people to stop apologizing when life interjects on a Zoom call. “I’m trying to pound into people’s heads, just give yourself permission to be human,” she said. As a small business owner, she wants businesses to be able to celebrate the lives that employees have outside of work.
She hopes that companies work to preserve the human element unveiled throughout the pandemic, allowing employees to bring more of who they are into their professional lives.
One thing that mystified Kat when she transitioned from high school English teacher to business owner was the lack of transparency she encountered in the business world. “When I first started, I was so confused why people would look you right in the eye and shake your hand and tell you basically that they were going to hire you or we would work together and then it wouldn't happen,” she said in her interview on Next Level.
She said learning that lesson early on helped her understand the value of authentic relationships, which ultimately helped her build Budova Engineering’s brand after the company relocated from Georgia to Baltimore.
“It served as an important reminder of how I needed to make sure I was always transparent with other people,” she said. “It's not always easy. It can be awkward. It can be difficult to have to speak the truth, whether it's hiring an employee or not hiring an employee or saying that a business deal just doesn't make sense or the connection isn't there.”
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Published on March 17, 2021