Eight weeks ago, I was having a few Guinness and a nice meal with some great clients at the six nations Ireland v Scotland game. All of us oblivious to the impending crisis about to unfold..!!
Ok, we all knew there was an issue in China, but it felt very similar to Ebola/ SARS and something that would have little effect on our small island, to the north west of Europe. Fast forward today and the current reality is something that many business owners simply weren’t ready for!
I’d be lying if I said I had a crystal ball and that we developed Zarrdia to be a perfect fit for the current crisis but that is what has transpired. When starting this business I had a few key objectives, build a business of high performers, who can work for our clients, wherever, whenever. We wanted to make people happier by changing the way our team work, which gives more flexibility, while getting better results for both our clients and Zarrdia. Flexibility is our greatest asset – we empower our employees to take control of their own work schedule, enabling them to ensure real work/life balance.
As I said, I’d love to pontificate that I had seen this all coming, but what I did know, is that the way people work was changing and the best people, the people we wanted, would not sit for 4 hours a day on the M50 or ram themselves on crowded public transport every day of the week. In making this decision it changed how we structured the business model and its execution. For firms operating in what we call the ‘traditional’ model or opposite of how we work, Covid 19 has been unforgiving. It ruthlessly exploited ineffective execution and its also been merciless, towards any business over levered and lacking cash reserves.
What this doesn’t mean is that those businesses should roll over and die, quite the contrary, now is there time to step up and fight using a structured and planned approach. You may say that’s all great, but we have no cash to pay anyone at the end of the month. Remember panic and fear are too very different things. While panic does nothing bar increase anxitey and lack of sleep, resulting in poor performance and poor decision making. Fear on the other hand can be a very powerful motivator for effective change. Embrace that fear and ask yourself, where do I want my business to be in 12 months?
Next we need to break that down into manageable steps, remembering a famous Navy Seal quote, “Get Comfortable being Uncomfortable…”!
Now is a great time to redefine goals and objectives for yourself and your team in the coming 9 months to Christmas (did I actually say that word)! At Zarrdia we set these well in advance of the new year, so the team has had time in the first quarter to reflect on everything but crucially, they were primed and ready to go into full remote working from April – refocused and ready for battle.
Businesses work in quarters right? We love saying things like: “so by the end of Q2….” or “that will be executed by the start of Q3”. But why then do we plan our lives out in one year periods, be that with New Year resolutions, or with one-off goals that we only check back in on months and months later?
That kind of long-finger thinking and “planning”, if you want to call it that, doesn’t work. I learned that the hard way. Split your year up into blocks of 12 weeks, not one big block of 12 months. Makes sense doesn’t it? And the result? Most people say they end up getting more done in a 12-week period than other people they know managed to achieve in a 12-month block.
NASA uses the method, as does jewelry giant Tiffany’s and BMW. Be ruthless, know what has to be achieved and what is a nice to have. Get the balance right between the tactical (getting cash in) and the strategic (ensuring business growth and cutting out non effective business channels). The great thing too is that no matter when in the calendar year you discover the method first, you can just start from where you are and plan out your remaining months in 12-week blocks.
2. Review & Reassess
Forget about Covid 19 altogether and ask yourself this: ‘Where would you like your business to be April 2021?’ Envision that and absorb it into the grey matter. Write down the objectives that will get you there and use that as a compass week-to-week, across each 12 month block to assess whether you’re on track.
Here’s what I would do now, if I had a business under pressure. Look at the overarching professional goals and focus on the the following key areas (non exhaustive), including
Finances, how much cash have you got, how long will it last and when will you start to get more revenue. Break that into a speadsheet with a weekly battle line, between money in and money out. Remember it is vital that you continue to pay suppliers, your team and yourself. Money is meant to move around. If we all adopt a cash hoarding ‘pay no one’ attitude, we will drive an even deeper recesssion, ironically causing your business even more problems 24 – 36 weeks out.
Communicate with everyone, more regularly, particularly your team and key clients. Jack Welch (ex CEO GE) used to say that it takes 8 iterations for the same message to actually sink in. You can adopt Zarrdia’s communications approach if it works. We have a daily 8.30am meeting, done by video call, to ensure everyone has a shared purpose, assistance with any issues, but most importantly they feel the ‘band of brothers’ approach to getting through the workload. Especially if you need team members to take a pay cut or worse again, remember this won’t last forever. Actually one final tip here, research has found the entire team may be willing to take a small pay cut each rather than let anyone go. Now you have a real team spirit and unbreakable bond.
Health, last but certainly not least, is the well being both mental and physical of each team member. Make sure as a leader, you take time to speak with everyone in the team, regularly. To ensure each person is OK. None of us really know how each other are dealing with everything. So without getting too personal, just show you care and support that person both profesionally and personally, making sure everyone gets some physical exercise as well.
Don’t focus too hard what’s gone wrong. You are where you are. If you have no cash, no amount of over analysis is going to fix that. Focus on the steps above and get those funds in, whatever it takes! As Winston Churchill famously said, “Success is not final and failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts!”
Take time to reflect on all the positives in your life; that could be your partner, kids or even spending time walking your dog. Take time to appreciate all you have and don’t beat yourself up too much.
There is a lot of science that backs up the benefits of switching off and spending time with your friends and family. Harvard says so… A longitudinal study from Harvard University looked at the happiness of 268 men over the course of 80 years from 1938-2018. Those men faced everything from illness to unemployment in their personal lives, and from WW2 to walls in their own lives. They witnessed and withstood a lot. And what was the overall secret to happiness during those 80 years? Tending to their relationships is what mended and minded their lives.
Use this time wisely for both yourself, your family and your business. Remember we can’t control the crisis, but we can control how we respond to the crisis. And always ask yourself, why did I get out of bed this morning? If you need any help at all, please feel free to reach out.