With a potential economic crisis on the horizon, business owners are more than concerned.
Business owners everywhere are walking a delicate tight rope of financial concern, meeting cancellations, travel restrictions, technology challenges and employee morale, all while trying to remain empathetic toward employees and customers.
It’s flat out hard being a business owner right now.
When I asked some of our firm’s leaders for their #1 piece of advice for business owners, several common themes emerged: communication and patience.
Let’s look at what they had to say.
Switching from onsite to remote work has been a huge topic for business owners. As federal, state and local governments continue to clamp down restrictions on where people can and cannot go, the need to move work from office buildings to homes grows by the day.
That’s why I asked Bill Walter of our Technology Solutions Group what his number one piece of advice is for business owners. Curiously, his first piece of advice isn’t about technology at all: “Take a breath. This is uncharted territory, but quick fixes and fast decisions could cause more problems.”
Bill adds that when it comes to technology, “The solution is only as good as the plan. There are many remote access options so be sure to read the fine print and configure access to only what is needed. Don’t open the door to allow unauthorized access to your network. A few minutes of planning, with the right guidance, can give you the secure remote access you and your employees need without putting your data at risk.”
Linda Pietras is one of the first people at our firm that employees turn to for information. So I tapped into Linda for her HR and employee relations expertise.
“First,” Linda suggests to business owners, “Don’t panic, even though it is hard not to.”
“Communicate, communicate, communicate to workers in the office and those who are working remotely on variety of topics, not just the coronavirus, as that may create more panic and disrupt productivity even more.”
Linda recommends that business owners and managers update their teams on topics such as happenings at the business, tips for staying healthy, etc. Be transparent about what is going on, showing you care by staying in touch. Be ‘present’ with everyone, regardless of where everyone is working. Don’t lose touch with those working remotely. Also, holding employees accountable for work productivity is important, too. Business owners need to find the balance between expecting productivity while taking into account the safety of employees and customers.”
When I asked Dan Larson what advice he has for business owners, he said, “Check with your banker about your lines of credit. They understand the current situation and depending on your industry, might be able to make additional funds available until things settle down, since payments from customers might be slow during these trying times.”
Dan, who works with a lot of government contractors, noted that, “The government payment processors are out, which is a huge issue, but A/R is almost guaranteed being the US government, so the banks have given extra room on their lines for that issue.”
When I asked Jeremy Weisinger, senior network consultant with our Technology Solutions Group, about his #1 piece of advice for business owners, it didn’t take him long to answer. “It’s got to be collaboration apps. Microsoft Teams, Slack, GoToMeeting, etc. are a great alternative to allow you to continue to interface with coworkers, peers and clients while still practicing the social distancing our world needs.”
Jeremy let me know that businesses can get a free six-month Microsoft Office 365 E1 trial, which includes Microsoft Teams, in light of the increased need for employees to work from home during the COVID-19 outbreak. We recommend taking a look at Teams if you’re not already familiar with it. It’s quite a robust tool for any business that needs to enable remote workers to connect and collaborate. Our technology consultants can help you decide if Teams is the right collaboration tool for you. Contact us here for advice.
Here’s what Laura Liberto, our office administrator, recommends to business owners: “Lots of patience and communication. As managers, we naturally deal with emergencies first through the personal lens of us and our families. We need to listen to our staff. We’ll hear their story and all the pressures they are feeling. Concise, consistent messages to employees seem to calm folks. I think encouraging employees to work from home, when possible, gives both the company and staff a feeling that life goes on and we are all in this together.”
As our director of business development, Lisa Carmichael knows better than anyone the value of attending events and making new connections. Events and in-person meetings came to an abrupt halt just days ago.
“This time is challenging,” says Lisa. “Business development and sales professionals are at a bit of a loss, as we need to be sensitive to what is going on in the world and with small businesses. Take the time to join a LinkedIn group to discuss sales challenges and maybe gain new ideas that you can implement into your daily routine. When things do get back to normal, you will be armed and equipped to put these new ideas into practice and try to move forward, full steam ahead.”
As for me? I recommend that business owners communicate more than they think they need to. When people are fearful and uncertain, information can help give them a sense of control. When it was clear that the virus outbreak would affect our firm along with every other organization, we issued swift communication to clients and employees, indicating a clear plan of action and detailing who’s affected, and how. We will continue to provide updates to our clients and employees as the situation continues to evolve.
Business owners and employees should stay visible throughout this crisis. Lots of meetings that would have taken place in person are moving to virtual meetings. You can be visible — literally — by turning on the video feature of whatever tool you use for virtual meetings. I recorded a video on that here, on LinkedIn.
Whether it’s Microsoft Teams (like we use at here Gross Mendelsohn), Zoom, Slack or some other collaboration tool, turning on your video will make your remote conversations more impactful and conversational. You’ll appear more human on the other end of your computer. And who doesn’t benefit from a little more humanity in a time of crisis?
If you want to check out Microsoft Teams, you can get a free six-month trial. Our technology team can help you assess whether Teams is the best collaboration tool for you and your business. Reach out here for help with Teams.
If you need help with any business or technology issues, contact us here or call 800.899.4623.
Published on March 19, 2020