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How One Company Prepared for a Crisis No One Saw Coming

Mike Kotsis Leadership, Small Business

The world was turned upside down in 2020 and brought to a standstill practically overnight. How did it affect your leadership team? No matter how your business was impacted, COVID-19 introduced an unprecedented challenge. For some, it was a matter of survival. For others, it created an opportunity to take a step back, be still, reflect, and determine a new path forward.

Like it or not, 2020 is a year of surrendering to what is. Surrendering doesn’t mean giving in, or enjoying the situation — it means accepting the reality that is in front of us. Only when we accept our situation can we move forward and find ways to thrive. If we resist the situation, clinging to past ideals of normalcy, the circumstance owns us and it will consume us — our thoughts, emotions, and wellbeing.

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Build Your Shelter Before the Storm Hits

One team comes to mind that I recently had an annual planning session with. This is an HVAC company with five people on their leadership team. Early in 2019, a year before the coronavirus, the team addressed an area of their business that made up about 20 percent of annual revenue, but was operating outside of their Core Focus. 

They had identified it as an issue years earlier but chose to do nothing about it. This time it was different, because they were spending a large portion of their time dealing with Right Person/Right Seat aggravations that this area of the business continually produced. There were constant people issues that demanded time and attention. Yet, for all the trouble it caused, the area was responsible for a great deal of revenue.

We looked forward a year and painted a picture of two scenarios — one with this part of the business, and one without it — to see where they would get the best return on their time spent. Instantly, everything became clear. 

As painful as it was, they realized that they needed to wind down that part of the business, sell the building it was operating in, and let go of the people that were holding them back. Eliminating distractions from their Core Focus would allow the organization to free up tremendous time and energy to their sweet spot. 

A Company That’s Strong in the Storm

Fast forward to today. As they look back on 2020, the leadership team can see their best year on record. The company is reporting record revenues and enjoying the highest net profit percentage in company history. In fact, the net profit percentage was higher than their 3 Year Picture goal! Incredible.

COVID-19 created major turbulence for this company, just as it did for most businesses. But because they didn’t ignore tough decisions back in 2019, they were better equipped to handle the disruption.

Without the constant people issues distracting the leadership team, they were able to invest in core areas that needed their attention. In the midst of the pandemic, the leaders had the capacity to take care of important and urgent needs. Here are a few of the practices they followed:

  • Frequent communication. When uncertainty was high, the company’s leaders stepped up the frequency of communication with everyone in the organization. Daily state-of-the- company updates became the norm. As the level of uncertainty settled a bit, they dialed back the frequency of communication. Rule of thumb: the more uncertainty, the more fear there is, the more frequent communication is needed company wide.
  • Embracing virtual. As with many companies, my client had never communicated with their entire team via virtual video conference before the pandemic. When they were forced to work remotely, the leadership team felt the need to do more than use emails or phone calls — they set up regular live video updates and provided recorded options for those who couldn’t attend. Importantly, they included a live Q&A portion for their people to ask questions. 
  • The Reverse Accountability Chart. The leadership team was ready with a reverse Accountability Chart and scorecard triggers. Having these tools in place helped them take proactive actions on worst-case scenarios. 

Check out this article for more tips on thriving during COVID-19.

While my client had no idea what was coming in 2020, letting go of the things that didn’t align with their Core Focus protected them when hard times came. They were laser-focused as a company when the world turned upside down. Because of this, they were able to respond quickly and get their entire team of 50 employees to row in the same direction. 

On top of that, they were now in a position to make a key acquisition to the company, which helped them expand their footprint and customer base in 2020!

Need to talk to someone about strengthening your organization during uncertainty? Let’s talk!