Under any circumstances, managing a remote team requires an over-emphasis on communication, a deep understanding of flexibility, and a variety of ways to maintain touc hpoints with your teammates. Now, with so much uncertainty, fear, and sickness, we need to have even more compassion so that people have time to heal, adjust, and find their anchor within this "new normal."
Remote Work Technology
My favorite software to leverage for a work from home team is Zoom, Loom, Slack, Parabol, and Hangouts. Zoom is the go-to software platform for video meetings and webinars. Loom makes it easy to annotate videos and create tutorials or work product update emails. Slack is great for asynchronous communication and resolving issues that everyone can read. Parabol not only makes it easy to manage tasks and do team check-ins, but it also has creative ways to encourage team problem solving and resolutions. Last hangouts, I use hangouts now more than ever to gossip and check-in with friends throughout the day. Since typing on a computer is much faster than texting on a phone, it's a great way to stay connected and chat with people at a more in-depth level throughout the workday.
Almost everyone person on the EnrichHER team has had to alter responsibilities based on the new environment. First, every team member is processing COVID-19 differently. The processing ranges from anxiety and fear to a need for increased meditation to find an internal anchor and joy. As such, the people who are communicating with clients, customers, and advisors cannot be the people who are full of fear and anxiety, so we've had to revamp our entire communications strategies.
The important thing is to not judge, have compassion, and be supportive of everyone who is showing up to reach a collective goal.
Furthermore, some of the team members were unable to continue working, either because they'd rather just be still without mental distraction during this time, they couldn't find the willpower to work, or they're dealing with the care or loss of a loved one. Again, the responsibility has been reallocated and sometimes put on hold based on the resources that we currently have available.
Last, being more flexible in Zoom team meetings is also important. As more families are at home together, many meetings now include babies crying in the background, people walking through the video, and/or it might just be messy in the team member's home. The important thing is to not judge, have compassion, and be supportive of everyone who is showing up to reach a collective goal.
Changing The Concept Of Deadlines
Everyone moves at a different pace during uncertainty. For me, I move faster while being driven by the stories of success told through books like Outliers. For others, they move slower. Many women-led businesses have told me that they didn't have the capacity to apply for grants or loan programs at this time because their inner spirit told them to be still. Both solutions are entirely valid.
Some of us see this time as an opportunity to shift our goals and businesses, and others feel like it's a time to be still and come back to one's self. The important thing is not to judge yourself if you have a certain perspective. The best thing to do is to listen to what you think is best and go with that.
Moving forward during COVID-19 requires a lot of change from all involved stakeholders. If you're lucky enough to have a business that can still service customers during this time, it takes immense flexibility and understanding from both your team and your customers, as everyone is dealing with change.
Some of us see this time as an opportunity to shift our goals and businesses, and others feel like it's a time to be still and come back to one's self.
The best way to survive is to just be compassionate, use tools that facilitate communication and improve the customer experience but acknowledge that everyone in your path is human with real reactions that they have to navigate. Don't treat people like they are robots; in fact, cherish the differences and use those differences to navigate, adapt, and thrive.
This article was originally published April 27, 2020.
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"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.
Find A Need And Fill It
I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.
Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.
Have Working Capital And Credit
There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.
I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.
Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.
My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.
Know Your Product Thoroughly
I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?
My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.
My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!
More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.
Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth
I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.
I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.
Delegate From The Bottom Up
I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.
In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.