Every company thinks they’re prepared until something comes along that makes them consider how prepared they truly are.
I have been an entrepreneur my entire life, and I’ve never seen anything like the potential impact of the coronavirus global pandemic. I vividly remember fearing for my life during the attacks of September 11th. I remember the mass financial uncertainty that came with the housing crash of 2008. But the global impact of the coronavirus, as quickly as it has spread, is unlike any other event I’ve witnessed in my life.
And I know I’m not alone.
As an entrepreneur, these are the moments that end up making or breaking businesses. For example, my business, LendingOne, is based in Florida, and already there have been 149 confirmed coronavirus cases and four deaths. Like the rest of the United States and the rest of the world as well, we aren’t sure what the future holds. All we can do is continue to act deliberately and intentionally, and do our best to keep moving forward.
For our business, and as the CEO, this means doing everything possible to ensure our employees are taken care of, work resumes for our customers, and being as transparent as possible about how we’re handling the situation.
Here are a few ways we’re approaching this pandemic.
1. Preparing to have our 70 employees work from home.
Most companies in areas where the coronavirus has been detected have begun moving (or have already moved) their entire workforce to a remote setup.
In our case, we are a 100% cloud-based business, so making the transition to remote isn’t difficult from technological standpoint. The challenge, however is adjusting to a “new way” of doing things. Meetings must be held over video. In-person communication has moved to chat and phone calls. All of these subtle nuances seem like small changes until you implement them—which is why so many companies are scrambling to adjust.
If you are an entrepreneur and your business has not been remote before, I highly encourage you to reach out to other entrepreneurs who run remote businesses. There is an art to communicating and staying productive from afar, so part of keeping your business operating is helping your team be successful in this new work environment.
A few rules to keep in mind:
- Don’t just assume people know how to use certain types of software. Take the time to train your team members on new tools like Zoom, Slack, etc., if they are not already ingrained into your business.
- Be compassionate as people create new habits for themselves as they work from home, and the reality that they are most likely sharing their home space with a significant other/children who are also needing to stay home now as well.
- Encourage people to discuss the situation with one another, and be supportive in these difficult times. Working remotely can feel lonely for certain individuals, so encourage them to still talk with other employees.
2. Keep your team and customers fully involved throughout the transition process.
As you move your team to a remote setup, and as you continue to monitor the news of the world, it’s extremely important that you over-communicate any and all upcoming decisions to your team.
Right now, more than ever, people are feeling “in the dark” about how the coronavirus is going to impact them and their lives. Which means, as the leader, you need to take it upon yourself to share new information as soon as you receive it, and constantly communicate next steps to your employees and customers. Give people a heads-up about how you are going to handle the problem. As news develops, let them know what options you’re considering.
This level of transparency is what will keep people feeling safe—as opposed to feeling like they can’t trust you.
3. Identify other employees who can be leaders during these difficult times, and empower them.
Especially if you are the CEO of a company with twenty, fifty, seventy or more employees, you need to know who your leaders are.
As much as you would like to, its unrealistic to think you will be able to navigate the business and spend time individually with each and every team member. Instead, you need to empower other people within your organization to take the lead, and support others in the same way you would. Encourage them to reach out to their teams and talk to them about the situation. Give them more freedom to make judgment calls on what they feel is best in order to keep things “business as usual.”
These are just a few of the steps we are taking now, and as things progress, we will do what is necessary in order to keep everyone healthy and safe. However, it’s important to remember that these decisions must be made, and as the founder, it’s your job to make them.
It’s time to be a leader and be decisive about what’s most important to keep your employees safe, while at the same time, ensuring your business stays running.