As the nation’s economy continues to struggle because of the impact of COVID-19, small business owners and their leadership skills are being put to the test.
They face the task of adapting to the crisis and helping their employees adapt as well. But just what steps can business leaders take to keep employee morale high, make sure the business stays afloat, and manage their own concerns about the future?
One of the most important things is to be transparent with employees about where the business stands, says Adam Witty, ForbesBooks co-author of Authority Marketing: Your Blueprint to Build Thought Leadership That Grows Business, Attracts Opportunity, and Makes Competition Irrelevant.
“Face the facts head-on and don’t try to sugarcoat it,” says Witty, the founder and CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks (www.advantagefamily.com). “Share with your team, in calm and rational terms, what impacts you expect the virus to have on your business and what the business is doing to try to mitigate those negative impacts.”
Witty suggests other steps business leaders need to take as they manage their way through the crisis:
Over-communicate. With remote work, communicating is more important now than ever. In an office, much of the communication happens naturally as people drop by each other’s offices or pass in the hallway. With everyone spread out, communication can easily fall by the wayside so it needs to be more intentional. Witty says it’s critical to use video communication like Zoom or Google Hangouts whenever possible to interact with employees. He also makes a point of sending at least three company-wide video messages a week. “In times of great uncertainty, communicate more not less,” he says. “In the absence of information, people tell themselves stories, and I can promise they are bad stories.”
Project calm. When a leader is anxious and fearful, everyone will pick up on that and they, too, will become anxious and fearful. “If your employees see that you are worried, they will begin to think it is all over,” Witty says. That doesn’t mean to fake it or to pretend the situation isn’t bad. “We can’t control the situation we find ourselves in,” he says. “But we can control how we react to the situation, and how we react will dictate our results.”
Consider introducing new products or services. Now is a good time to get innovative, Witty says, so brainstorm with your team about alternative ways to bring in revenue if your usual sources have been disrupted. For example, some restaurants that were strictly sit-down establishments pivoted to offer takeout and delivery. Witty’s own company created new publishing and marketing products aimed at potential clients who may be more cost-conscious during these tough economic times.
Finally, Witty says, have a plan.
“Hopefully, you already have a strategic plan for your business that you are executing week in and week out,” he says. “As we continue to move along through this crisis, that plan will need to be adjusted as COVID-19 makes some pieces of your plan obsolete.”
He suggests meeting weekly, if not more often, to keep updating the plan to reflect the new realities. Then communicate the plan and its latest adjustments to your team.
“When employees know the leaders have a plan,” Witty says, “it creates calm and confidence.”
Adam Witty, co-author with Rusty Shelton of Authority Marketing: Your Blueprint to Build Thought Leadership That Grows Business, Attracts Opportunity, and Makes Competition Irrelevant, is the CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks (www.advantagefamily.com). Witty started Advantage in 2005 in a spare bedroom of his home. The company helps busy professionals become the authority in their field through publishing and marketing. In 2016, Advantage launched a partnership with Forbes to create ForbesBooks, a business book publisher for top business leaders. Witty is the author of seven books, and is also a sought-after speaker, teacher and consultant on marketing and business growth techniques for entrepreneurs and authors. He has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily and USA Today, and has appeared on ABC and Fox.
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