“Brett, what does it mean? We have to shelter in place starting at midnight according to the mayor.” Blossom said to me. “Maybe ‘Jane’ (a friend of ours) isn’t that crazy after all.”
Jane’s been in a panic because of the Coronavirus. She’s been calling and/or texting Blossom it seems about every hour with some new update.
I don’t blame Jane for being concerned. She has two elderly parents that she’s concerned will come down with the virus. I can relate. After all, my Mom is 87, and she’s scared to death that she will get the virus.
You’re likely to have employees that are scared too.
I’ve had similar conversations with every one of my 1:1 coaching clients over the past month. The question is, “What should I be doing that I’m not doing already to prepare for the worst during the Coronavirus?”
The good news, from my perspective, is that each of my clients had already taken some action already. Here’s the steps I would suggest you take if you haven’t taken them already:
A. You need to be transparent with your team.
The fear level is really high right now. You have the chance to be a calming voice to your team. The first step to being that calming voice is being completely open and honest about what’s going on.
Resist the urge to sugarcoat things. And don’t be doom and gloom either. Instead, you need to be that steady hand at the wheel. Just provide a consistent, honest message to your team.
B. You need to overcommunicate with your team. I would update them every day.
Fear and a lack of communication breeds panic. For example, there was concern in Manhattan that it would be completely shut down. This led to a run on the supermarkets, and the shelves were left bare.
Your team needs information. If no one provides them with information, then they will fill the vacuum with their own information. And this information will be the worst-case information, not the best-case information.
C. Think of the questions your team is likely to ask and have your answers at the ready.
Ideally, you would have a team meeting using Zoom, or you will be emailing your team every day with an update. Your team is going to have questions regardless of the medium you choose.
Work with your executive team and game plan for the likely questions your team will have. Then talk through the answers, so you can provide the best and most accurate information possible to your team.
D. You should make plans for your team to work from home indefinitely.
San Francisco’s mayor just issued a “shelter in place” edict. Los Angeles’ mayor issued a similar edict as well. Your town might be next, so you might not have much of a choice except for your team to work from home.
If you haven’t already, then you’re going to have to come up to speed quickly on how your team will work from home for an extended period of time. That might mean getting Zoom accounts. That might mean buying laptops for your team.
I can guarantee to you that your communication with your team will have to be crisp and accurate if you’re moving from an office environment to a work at home environment.
E. You should seriously consider unlimited sick time.
Seriously, you need to be flexible with your team. I know you may have limited sick time, but you want to encourage your team to stay home if they are sick.
This will not only limit the spread of the virus, but there is tremendous goodwill you will earn from your team. I’ve seen firsthand that the more trust you put in your team, the more your team will reward you.
F. Only have essential personnel come into the office.
You may have a business, or part of a business, that requires you to come into the office. For example, maybe you have to ship products.
Then limit the personnel that have to come into the office to handle what’s necessary. And, I hope this goes without saying, but be as flexible as possible.
G. And then consider reducing the number of shifts if possible.
One possible solution that one of my clients came up with was to consolidate shipments to Tuesday and Thursday. The shipping team worked longer shifts than normal, but it kept them home more.
This is just one idea. There are others. Just be creative and flexible.
H. Reduce your spending.
There’s no escaping the obvious, but your business is likely going to suffer during this time period. Worse yet, no one knows how long this will last.
The smartest thing you can do is to reduce your spending. If you burning cash (losing money) then you want to make your runway as long as possible.
I normally recommend that you give yourself a minimum of six months to raise that next round of funding. I’d double that right now to at least one year, maybe even two years.
I started raising money just as the Great Recession started. It took us two years to close our funding, so it could be a long haul.
I. Make sure you have essential supplies, so you don’t get caught short.
Several of my clients have suppliers, especially from China, that aren’t able to provide the components they need to manufacture. The good news is China appears to be slowly coming back to life, but I’d be worried about any European or US suppliers you might have. This is a good time to stock up a little more than normal if you can.
J. Focus on your building your team, even if you can’t afford to hire anyone now.
I know, I know. I said you shouldn’t spend any extra money, so let me explain what I mean.
I’m not saying you should hire more people right now. I am saying you should continue recruiting and have people ready to join your company once the crisis is over.
K. Finally, you need to be the steady hand at the wheel.
I just want to say it again. Your team needs your leadership now more than ever. If you are panicking, then your team will panic.
Remember that your team is much more isolated than they were previously. They are starving for you to fill the void.
The key is for you to provide a consistent, accurate, and transparent message to your team. Don’t sugarcoat things, but don’t say Armageddon is coming either.
What did I leave out? What are you doing with your team? I’d love to hear more.