5 Rules:

What I Learned During a Pandemic about Running a Business

by: Elizabeth Pekin, Esq.

During these most recent turbulent times my company has been running more smoothly than ever. We are hitting goals, we have a streamlined process, our teamwork has improved. We have recruited, hired and trained new employees, started a podcast, launched a Facebook Live show, moved office space and migrated to a new CRM. We have cried together, celebrated together, welcomed two team member's babies, mourned several employee’s friends and family’s deaths and quarantined together. We are stronger now and continuing to grow. We fall down, we get back up, we work in workout clothes. We zoom meet with clients in blazers and PJ bottoms. We are closer, we are better.

You might ask how?

I truly believe that if you create a work culture and community that fosters an environment where flexibility and respect flourish, your company will thrive. I believe that treating team members like family and truly liking the people you work with can help your company survive in any landscape. I also believe that preparing for emergencies before they happen will avert trouble when adversity hits.

Here are a few rules that could help your business during trying times:

Rule 1 – Prepare for Emergencies Before They Happen

Here comes a hurricane.

We are located in South Florida and when multiple hurricanes hit only 2 years into the launch of our business, we quickly realized that we needed a remote work plan to ensure our business would continuously flow. When the first storm hit, we had our server picked up, phones sent home with employees, and we traveled all over the country to make sure we could continue business. When Hurricane Irma came that year, we became even more nimble and fluid, staying in constant communication. We had a plan and we executed. Now fast forward to a lengthy worldwide pandemic where our entire company is forced to work remotely. No problem. We were Zooming way before the world Zoomed! We were prepared.

Rule 2 – Create a Corporate Culture and Treat Team Members as Family

When we started Momentum, we had recently left a corporate environment. That company originally started as a “family” style business, however as soon as a hedge fund came in to restructure, that feeling quickly faded. Leaving that environment, we vowed to make our new company a workplace where everyone was invested. We chose a physical space with a nice kitchen and added homey feels like an espresso machine that the team enjoys daily. One team member actually passes out late afternoon espresso shots to all who need a little boost toward the end of the day. We also enjoy Friday happy hours, host different team activities and have supplied the executive’s offices with comfy sofas so they could lounge and prop their feet up. I even have a wine fridge that is stocked and ready for the moment someone has a bad day. The key is to make sure our team really wants to be here and feels appreciated for the work they contribute. When we first launched, we had a program where we would give a team member a purple marble anytime they did something “above and beyond” what the expectations were. Then each month we would have an auction where we would buy gifts and the employees bid on the items using their accumulated marbles. We also had scavenger hunts where we placed the employees in teams and had them drive all over town with clues only to end at a local pizza joint where we all met. We acknowledge every birthday by sending personalized email blasts to the entire company. This is how you create a family environment where everyone truly embraces a company mission together. During long and extended time working remotely, those cultivated relationships have really helped us power through this pandemic.

Rule 3 – Make it Happen – Create an Environment of Accountability

One of the most crucial elements to a company’s success is one where everyone takes accountability for not only their actions, but the actions of others around them. If everyone focused more on solutions to problems as opposed to those who were responsible for them, they would progress much further. Finger pointing is toxic. People are human and mistakes do happen and if you create a culture where team members regularly take ownership of them, those problems get solved faster and any potential toxicity is diminished. While this seems like a tough ask, it’s actually much simpler than it seems.

It starts at the top. If a member of management openly takes responsibility for mistakes that might have happened beneath them, it sends a clear message to the individual(s) responsible. It shows team members that this manager feels accountable for action of their team. This not only absorbs a chunk of the guilt away from the team members, but it almost always leads to more loyal teammates in the long run. There isn’t much that will make you work harder for someone, if that person is willing to stand up for you in return. This works both laterally and up the chain as well. When you have this environment of accountability, you can get much more done together.

Rule 4 – Ask for Help When You Need it and Lean on Each Other in Times of Stress

One of the common themes of these rules is the concept of teamwork. We are much stronger together and it is very important to maximize the strength of the individuals. Competition is a good thing but when you breed too much of it, you can sometimes create tension or isolation. It’s important to make sure you regularly ask for help when you need it and provide it when asked. This creates more cohesion and allows the team to work more as a unit.

Rule 5 – Live by “Who Moved my Cheese?”

In 1998, author and physician Spencer Johnson published a book titled “Who Moved My Cheese?”. It is an allegorical tale using a pair of mice in a maze to illustrate the importance of adaptation, preparedness, facing fears and avoiding complacency. I recommend this book to my team and think it carries a powerful message in today’s climate.

Our world is constantly changing. Factors we can’t control are regularly influencing our lives, our industries, our economy and in some cases, our dreams. It is important to relish the small victories and enjoy successes of reaching milestones, but it is very dangerous to become complacent. Regardless of pandemics or natural disasters, the digital age allows information to flow much faster. Decisions are made much quicker and almost overnight, some industries or policies become obsolete. It is crucial that you are always anticipating change and prepared to pivot your business or your operations at a moment’s notice.

These cultural attitudes in your organization are only made stronger if you are following the aforementioned rules. If you create a family environment, hold each other accountable and always prepare for unexpected events, I believe you and your company will be much better off for it.

So how does one “move the cheese” in times like these?

Constant Communication is Key

Stay in constant communication with your team especially if everyone is adapting or switching over to a work from home environment. Some might not be used to this change, so touching base throughout the day might be necessary to keep everyone on the same page and motivated.

While email or text software might get the details across, it’s probably better to get on a phone call or a video call if you can. This will keep everyone engaged and on point. A video call is best because you can eliminate most distractions that come when the camera is off.

Create a Routine that Works

Most successful people attribute their success to a daily routine or set schedule. Working remotely should be no different. Encourage employees to wake up at the usual time, work out, shower, and get dressed. Then set up a morning video call where you can have a cup of coffee with your team members and go over priorities for the day, and potential challenges that working from home could elicit.

Setting individual and team goals during this time could even increase productivity. Having lunch meetings this way will also boost connection and help with morale.

Give Yourself a Break

Make sure you give yourself a break every 45 minutes. Staring at a computer and working any longer without a break can lead to fatigue and actually hurt productivity as the day continues. You don’t need to take more than 5-8 minutes during these breaks and that should be enough time to completely separate from the computer, use the restroom, grab a snack or stretch. A quick walk is also beneficial because you can get some blood flowing and some energy from moving. Meditation, yoga or short bursts of energy (push-ups, jumping jacks) are also ways you can take a break from your routine.

Outside of one or two longer breaks for lunch or a quick power nap, it is important to keep these breaks short to avoid losing momentum.

Having a Skype or Facetime lunch with a colleague or friend is also highly recommended. The personal connections you maintain during this time of isolation are important.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

There are endless amounts of tools at your disposal to increase your productivity and efficiency. I listed below some of the tools that have free versions so you can stay in front of your team, your clients and your work.

Communication & Video
Zoom Slack Microsoft Teams Google Hangouts Go To Meeting Workplace
Task & Project Management
Asana Trello Monday Teamwork
File Sharing & Cloud Storage
Google Drive OneDrive Box pCloud Dropbox
Automation Tools & API
PowerAutomate Zapier Automate.io PieSync Mulesoft