I hope we’re all hanging in there. What I wanted to speak on today, and I’ll even speak on what’s going on internally within our own organization, is just cautioning against making decisions that are purely self-preservation efforts.
In a time of change, you have got to make sure that your family’s taken care of, that you’re taken care of, but I want to encourage the conversation to not just be about me, but more so about we. Unfortunately, some of the things that I see people doing, business owners in particular, out of response to fear during this time, they’re making a lot of decisions and in the process where we have a potential to destroy one another.
I’ll be transparent with you guys. I’m scared as well.
I haven’t been sleeping well at night at all. The last several weeks have been really tough. I’ve got over 65 people in our organization to take care of. We’ve got over a thousand clients to support. To put things in perspective, our payroll is over $25,000 a day. That is over half a million dollars a month and that’s scary.
I want to be very transparent on that to make it clear that we’re all taking a hit and we’re all experiencing these challenges. I don’t know that anyone outside of Zoom and Amazon that’s really immune from this.
The thing that I would caution you guys against, and I put out a message to several of our clients and some of the fast-growing firms yesterday to ask them what are some of the biggest mistakes that firm owners can make during this time. I wanted to share with you what they shared with me so that you could find this valuable. It could be beneficial because this is coming from some of the fastest-growing firms in the nation, how they’re adapting and many of them are adapting quite well to the situation at hand.
The first mistake is to panic and make decisions from a place of just fear and emotion and not clarity.
People are making decisions based on fear and pain today and believing that it will extend well into the future, several months from now when in reality we don’t know whether it will or whether it won’t. When you’re making these types of decisions or gut reactions, which are typically low-level decision making, I caution you against that.
The other thing is not notifying your clients that you’re open for business. If you’re asking yourself, “Why is the phone not ringing right now?” I would also encourage you to ask, “Do our clients know that we are open?” They may not, and putting out some communication to show that you are open for business, how you and your team are working remotely, how you’re engaging with clients virtually, that you’re there to support them, that you’re there to help them.
Putting that messaging out there can be very beneficial to address the potential concern that people just don’t know whether you’re open for business or not.
You’re seeing this with restaurants as an example. If a restaurant is down right now outside of the fact that people in many areas of the country can’t come in person, but what if that restaurant started putting messaging out there that says, look, we are open for business. We allow curbside pickup. We’re doing delivery. Let me take it back into our kitchen and show you how we’re doing things, how we’re making sure that things are safe, the proactive measures that we’re taking. That restaurant would have a competitive edge. You can do the same thing for your business.
The next mistake, and again this is feedback that I received from some of our fastest-growing firms, is making personnel decisions, like layoffs, based on assumptions without considering long term implications.
One of the things that we did, and I didn’t do so out of nobility or what have you, it’s more so out of leadership and because I believe it is our duty as leaders to take care of our team, is to make sure that we notify our team that we have no plans to lay off any team members.
We’re going to do whatever we can and be creative and strategic enough to allow our team members to be taken care of, for their families to be taken care of and I get it. I know that’s not an easy thing to do. It’s painful for me to say. We’ve got payroll that’s over $25,000 a day. That is extremely expensive. When I put that out publicly, that’s painful for me.
I let the team know publicly as well so I could be accountable for figuring out that solution. I did it to put myself and our leadership team in the situation to figure it out.
Ross Cellino shared this with me: Laying off your staff and putting their families in the unemployment line is one of the most disloyal acts the firm can show to the rest of their staff.
You have to recognize that when you’re letting go of great team members as a knee jerk reaction. Whether it’s clients, vendors, staff, anything that support you to create success for you, you’re behaving in a way that may be viewed on a very short term basis.
The reality is this will pass, and then as the phone starts ringing again, as we start traveling again, all those things, we’re going to have a need for expanding our teams and we’re going to have a need for those capabilities, but people will remember how you responded as a leader during this time.
People are paying attention. Your community is paying attention, your team is paying attention, your partners are paying attention.
That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to terminate anybody who may not be doing their job. I think we all have a responsibility to do our jobs properly and to execute in those roles, but sometimes it’s shifting people around to various roles. Being able to have that flexibility so that there’s not as clear of lines as just, maybe somebody was in the intake department. We need them in the marketing department. Now, we need to make some calls for clients, whatever it might be. It’s just finding those things creatively.
At the same time, I also want to make the commitment that we’re not going to cut any of our partners, any of our vendors. We’re not going to cut back our marketing. We’re going to continue to invest in those things because those partners are the reasons why we are successful. Let’s not destroy each other, when you’re cutting back and you’re letting team members go, A-players go, when you’re letting partners go, when you stop paying them, consider that they have businesses and teams of their own.
As a community, we have to rally together. As business owners, the reason why I believe you become a business is because you want to feel better about betting on your own success than betting on somebody else to do it for you. This is the time that you step up as a leader and figure it out.
The next thing is letting yourself go. Meaning that you can’t get off track from your daily routines, exercising, meditating, journaling, whatever it is that you need. This also includes sleeping properly (which I’m not doing a good job of). I go to sleep at the right time, it’s just the actual sleeping part that lately has been a challenge.
Exercising, eating healthy, all those different things that allow you to be a great leader. I encourage you to really stay on top of those things, especially in times of adversity.
There’s failing to adapt. This is another huge mistake. When you fail to adapt and innovate and be flexible, that will cripple your business.
Not everyone’s going to make it, unfortunately. But if you’re using COVID-19 as an excuse to give up or not try to come up with creative solutions, then what do you think is going to happen? I think there’s the Henry Ford quote where it says, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Which side do you choose to be on?
I’ve gotten a lot of criticism lately. It’s confusing optimism with delusion.
We deal in realities every day, but if you think that me putting out a positive message and encouraging business leaders to be proactive is a delusional thing, well, what’s the alternative?
Should we go into our underground bunkers and do nothing and just wait? I prefer to view things through the lens of what you can control. You can’t control what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week or what have you. You’re not making policy in government.
I’m not going to wait on the government to save us or our own organization. We have to take care of that. We have to take care of our teams and our families and our partners and vendors.
We’re making the commitment to stay with our partners and vendors to continue to invest in them because we’re also mindful of their businesses and what happens there. What happens when the economic hit of all this and the places you used to go to, let’s say the restaurants you used to frequent, the gyms you used to go to, those people have families and teams.
Let’s say you have kids and you put them in karate classes or music classes. What happens when those businesses are out? When we come out and you’re seeing people at all these businesses that you used to frequent no longer exists, what is the impact of that? It’s finding ways to support those people and support the communities and really making a good impact, which leads me to the fact that this is a great opportunity.
Lead with an open hand, and what that means is support those around you.
The best thing I believe that you can do is to be an example for others, and that starts with taking care of your own house and taking care of your team, your family, your partners.
You need to be creative in a way that allows you to preserve everybody because they’re relying on you now. When this passes, and it will pass, we’re going to look back and see how people responded during this time.
I think the best leaders are going to be rewarded significantly for taking care of their team. They’re going to be rewarded in loyalty, they’re going to be rewarded with people stepping up, they’re going to be rewarded with confidence within their community.
We’re seeing numerous clients now stepping up within their communities. They’re making donations and hosting food drives. Even when we’re all in quarantine, there are exceptions that allow you as essential services to still step up.
How you conduct yourself during this time is part of how you’re selling and positioning and branding your firm. It’s a great opportunity to step up in the community and gain a lot of trust and respect and credibility because you may sell them today and just collect later when this blows over. Being mindful of what are you doing during this time when people are watching and people are looking to you for answers perhaps.
Finally, the biggest mistake is abandoning your long term vision in favor of impulsive decisions. John Morgan says “Everything is about tomorrow. Nothing is about today.”
Hopefully, you still have a long term vision that you want to preserve and you want to grow your business to make a greater impact in your community and support your team. When you’re abandoning that, that’s when you’re contracting. That’s when you’re making decisions to stop marketing and you start letting people go. That’s when you’re making decisions based on fear rather than based on growth.
You might be saying, “Easy for you to say, Mike.”
Well, this is coming from someone that didn’t take a single loan, that started this business with $500 to my name. We bootstrapped the whole thing, and we’re maintaining that mentality to do whatever it takes to support our team during this time and to support our clients. That’s the decision that I’m making. I’m not saying that it has to be yours too. That’s just how we’re choosing to lead during this time.
I do not feel comfortable putting our team and our partners in the unemployment line. I see a lot of business owners that are cutting 50 to 75% of their team and then flying on a G500 or they’re driving into their multi-million dollar mansion. I fundamentally disagree with that. That’s not being a leader. That’s being selfish.
I encourage you to lead with an open hand and support those around you. Let’s not assume that anyone’s coming to save us. We’ve got to save ourselves, but let’s not destroy each other in the process by abandoning each other, by abandoning our teams, and by abandoning our partners. We’re all struggling. Trust me, we are. I took a $1 million hit last week. Ouch. It hurts. But what are my alternatives? I can choose to contract and pull back, or I can be proactive and maintain a positive and optimistic message because this will pass.
Hang on, hang in there and let’s make sure that we elevate ourselves because you’ll look back on this, perhaps several months later, a year later, and remember how you responded. This won’t just be an incredible story, but a time that you found ways in which your team could be more adaptable and more flexible. You gained more creative solutions. You were able to be more innovative. But those lessons allowed you to succeed, and perhaps maybe even this year, have your best year ever.
If you agree of or disagree with anything I’ve talked about today, I want to know about it. You can text me personally at 404-531-7691.