Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now! JW von Goethe
The previous column discussed the need for asking hard questions and making hard decisions, to survive and thrive during and after the COVID 19 personal and professional tragedies. Also, the question was asked….‘How are you taking care of your #1 asset…YOU Inc?
I’m not sure I could or would do what I say you should do. But that’s not my problem anymore. I’m now speaking from lessons learned, running my family lighting distribution business for almost 40 years. Whether you own your business, lead the business or can influence the leadership (Mom, Dad, Grandma, Gramps, Uncle Joe, or Corporate HQ) in any way, you have an obligation to yourself and those who depend on you to ask the really tough questions about your business, your team members and your survival plans.
What needs to be changed, what needs to be done, what shouldn’t be done anymore, and who is and isn’t critical to your businesses’ survival and future? And that will be the toughest question. Who is critical long term, short term only, or unfortunately, not critical at all? But that is only an exercise, for now anyway.
This is where heart comes in. You have to live with yourself and the decisions you are going to influence or make, as you plan to shrink the business to the hard core of team players you are going to count on to keep your business in business. COVID19 is a killer, of people and of businesses. We don’t know what we don’t know…….the good thing about that may be that we all don’t know what we don’t know. Here’s the choice: (1) we plan for a future that is rich with opportunity. That we can and that we will adjust to the new normal. Or (2) we plan for the worst case, that the epidemic is going to stay with us, that vaccines for all are still a long away, and that major economic disruption is going to be ongoing, and is a new fact of business life. Whatever your prognostication, bold, brave, dramatic action is not just called for, it is absolutely required!
There will almost always be some marginal employees ‘grandmothered’ or ‘grandfathered’, keeping their jobs because they’ve earned an exemption….long term loyalty, personal issues, no trained replacements, and other rationalizations. But if someone’s job is saved by an exemption, they deserve to know it, and why. And you deserve an extra degree of performance, meeting of higher expectations, and of course loyalty from that employee. And if someone has to be let go, do it with compassion and as much financial and emotional support as you can….as generous severance as possible, continued health care, out placement if realistic, and a truly honest appraisal of the persons performance with constructive suggestions for business and personal improvement.
All easy for me to say, not easy for you to do. And if you can’t do the toughest stuff, and can afford not to do it, you’ve at least started the process of survival thinking. And you now know what you are going to have to do, at some point in your business’s future, if there is a business future. Now what?!?
Easy part, let the folks who are staying with you know they are staying, but with higher specific performance expectations where appropriate, and with clear overall survival plan for the entire team. And this is a perfect opportunity for team meetings, where everyone is given an opportunity (or required) to offer comments, suggestions and criticisms, make public affirmations of their commitment and expectations of themselves, their team and the company as a whole. And definitely required, to publicly share their suggestions for the overall plan for today, tomorrow and the near future.
The real value of this exercise is both clear communication of the threat to your business and everyone’s personal future, as well as giving all the team members an opportunity to feel a sense of ‘ownership’ in the ‘survive and thrive’ plan for the future. This part of the strategy requires real planning of what gets said, what gets committed to by ownership/management, and what is expected of the entire Survival Team. And consider hiring a professional to manage the process, and then objectively summarize all the Survival Team input.
TO BE CONTINUED…….