Up to the challenge

By edited by Sarah Bunyea

Focus on these 3 strategies to grow your business during a shutdown.

In light of what has been happening with COVID-19 since early March, it would be an understatement to use the phrase, “unusual and challenging” when describing the current business climate. For better or worse, green industry business owners are doing their best to guide their enterprises and make it through these unsettling times.

Eric Plasker, PhD, author of The 100 Year Lifestyle, said it best when he wrote, “We really don’t fear change but rather the uncertainty of how to deal with that change.” To paraphrase his insightful words, we don’t so much fear the coronavirus pandemic as we fear the uncertainty of how we will cope with it.

So, how do we deal with that ambiguity? Try starting with these three key areas. When you use them properly, they’ll serve you and your company well.

  • Focus on your team first.
  • Reach out and reconnect with your clients now.
  • Focus on your green company’s future.

Focus on your team first

In the research conducted by Daniel Coyle, author of Emotional Intelligence, employees want three things from the business or organization they work for. They want to

  • feel safe.
  • feel connected.
  • share a future.

Let’s look at how these basic needs can be translated in your supervisors’ and employees’ eyes. They want their families and themselves to feel safe or, in other words, free from illness and harm. They want to be sure they will have the money to cover their immediate needs and expenses in the near future.

As to feeling connected, they want to stay in constant communication with you and your company. Now is the time for you to communicate regularly with your employees and supervisors. I recommend reaching out to them with a personal phone call every one or two weeks. In the meantime, you can email or text them two or three times per week. Remember, you don’t have the luxury of seeing them in person every day.

When it comes to reminding them that they are part of the future of the company, some of my clients are using videoconferencing as a way to connect weekly with the whole team. Some organizations will have employees post pictures of their families, pets or hobbies they engage in on their company Facebook page.

One of my clients is having an online “happy hour” every Thursday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. This is a brilliant way to keep everyone connected and include the camaraderie that helps to hold the team together.

Some of my clients are using this time as an opportunity to bring their employees up to date on any projects they are working on or they are planning to begin as soon as their state restrictions allow.

My point is, they are using their communications to keep them connected and in the loop of what is happening.

Concerning the monetary needs of your employees, reassure them of the strategy you have for paying them. If you must cut their pay, cut yours as well. Remind them that as soon as business gets back to normal, your plan/goal is to get all pay back to where it was before COVID-19.

Reach out and reconnect with your customers now

One of the best strategies you can implement right now is to contact each of your present and past clients and ask them how they and their families are doing during these difficult times.

This one act can have so many wonderful effects. First, it lets people know you are thinking about them — not just as customers, but as human beings. Done sincerely, it reassures them of your interest in their well-being. Just letting them know that you are thinking about them builds goodwill and trust.

You can add that as soon as things get back to “normal,” you stand as a resource ready to serve. You can answer any questions they might have now about their landscaping or lawn maintenance needs. You can close the conversation or communication by reassuring them you will be here after things get back to a more stable time. You can assure them you are ready to help them in any way they need.

Focus on your company’s future

Ben Franklin once said, “If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him,” meaning that investing in your own development and future will deliver the best return. Franklin was one of the most prosperous business owners of his day. He attributed his success to his continual belief in learning and applying that knowledge in his businesses.

You and your employees can take advantage of this “extra” time you might have due to a slowdown in your business and start learning something that will help you develop your personal and professional skills.

Here are a few tips to making this happen:

  • Create a learning strategy by answering the following questions: What do you and your employees need to learn? What knowledge do you need to acquire? Which certifications would be important to earn?
  • Plan out how you can use this learning strategy to improve your business and position it so it is ahead of your competition after the pandemic slows down.
  • Do a virtual company retreat. Feel free to contact me with your questions on this one.
  • Update or create the strategic plan for your organization.
  • Revisit and update your company mission statement and slogan.
  • Ask your team for suggestions on how to update your website. I know of one CEO who gave each of his team members a list of three competitors and their website links. He asked his team members to review those websites and identify three things they liked and three things they didn’t. Once completed, they met to discuss what they could implement, change or delete on their website.

Finally, to help position your business for the future, hold a meeting with your managers and discuss these four questions:

  • What do we need to stop doing?
  • What do we need to start doing?
  • What do we need to do less of?
  • What do we need to do more of?

Once you have thoroughly discussed and answered these questions, implement the answers and ideas you generate.

Let’s summarize and give you some ideas to take action on.

Focus on your team first. Remember to meet the basic needs of your team members to feel safe, connected and part of a future vision.

Reach out and reconnect with your clients now. Let them know you are thinking of them and their families. Reassure them that you will be there for them when things start getting back to normal.

Focus on developing your company’s future. Take advantage of the extra time you have now and get busy taking action to position your company for a brighter and more prosperous future.

This is a difficult time to be in leadership. But by staying connected with employees and clients, and looking for new opportunities in the downtime, it’s possible for you and your company to come through even stronger than before.

Tom Borg is a team performance and customer experience expert who works with green industry organizations and their leadership teams to help them connect, communicate and work together better without all the drama through his consulting, training, coaching, leadership instruments and job benchmarking tools. To ask him a question, please call 734.404.5909, email tom@tomborg.com or visit his website at: www.tomborgconsulting.com.