How To Lead Your Business Through Crisis | The Melting Pot Newsletter | #81
HOW TO LEAD YOUR BUSINESS THROUGH CRISIS
Every day, the news gets bleaker. With the coronavirus crisis deepening, the full economic effect is starting to become clear. The latest headlines make very grim reading. Nearly a fifth of small and medium-sized businesses are unlikely to get the cash they need to survive the next four weeks, in spite of government support.
Mental health will increasingly become an issue. In China, the evidence suggests week four of the lockdown was unbearable for large numbers of employees. The next two weeks will seem increasing bleak as many go through the stages one would normally associate with grief (see recommended article from HBR below).
This crisis seems to be polarising. Last week, I spoke to business leaders whose revenues had dropped off a cliff and others who were busier than they’d ever been. Regardless of the situation in your business, what’s needed now is a firm grip, nerves of steel and deep reserves of energy. As CEO, your role is now Chief Energy Officer. And it’s going to be exhausting, relentless and thankless work.
I’ve been there. Back in 2001, as the dotcom bubble was bursting and weeks before 911, I joined Rackspace. In that recession, we grew the UK business to £30m in five years. Then in 2007, I took over as MD of ITLab. The global financial crisis (GFC) had begun to develop. Turnover went from £8m to £5m overnight. Our customer base of small London businesses was terrified and instantly stopped their discretionary spend. No-one was buying printers, pcs or servers, let alone having them installed. My company was losing £65K per month and we were months away from bankruptcy. But, after a monumental effort, we managed to turn things around.
In the last recession, and with the GFC still in full swing, I left ITLab and launched Peer 1 Hosting in the UK. We grew that firm to £30m in five years. It can be done!
So how do you get through this? Based on experience, here are my tips for leading your business through a crisis.
Patty McCord: Queen of the Good Goodbye
You may not have heard of Patty McCord directly, but if you’re in HR or recruitment, you’ll have likely heard of her work. Patty was Chief Talent Officer at Netflix for 14 years and co-author (alongside Netflix CEO Reed Hastings) of the infamous Netflix culture deck. This document was one of the first slides on Slideshare and is probably one of the most viewed documents up there too.
Patty has worked in many different tech companies in and around Silicon Valley, and today she is often in the media with interviews and articles, as well as speaking at CEO forums and business schools. But it is her work at Netflix that she is most known for. While at Netflix she abolished performance reviews as well as challenged the need for policies. Patty firmly believes people come to work as fully formed adults with a desire to make an impact and be proud of what they do.
“It starts with the idea that people are adults and that they’re smart, right. And so what I mean by that is, people who have demonstrated the ability to make a commitment and follow through, I mean, that’s sort of baseline 101 for adult behaviour.”
In her chat with Dom, they cover some of the elements of the culture deck, A-players and how to hire them, how to hire and build teams, what the main job of a team leader or manager is, and how to exit staff from an organisation with dignity and fairness.
Work can be frustrating. How can you get along with that maddening coworker? Figure out what your unapproachable boss really wants? Motivate your demoralized team? “Dear HBR:” is here to help. With empathy, experience, and humor, veteran Harvard Business Review editors and co-hosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn explore solutions to your workplace dilemmas. Bolstered by insights from guests and academic research, they help you navigate thorny situations to find a better way forward.
It’s now clear that the coronavirus pandemic is not going to be a short, sharp emergency. How people cope with the fallout is dependent on the depth and quality of the relationships — with friends, family, or colleagues — they had before lockdown.
Some of the HBR edit staff met virtually the other day — a screen full of faces in a scene becoming more common everywhere. We talked about the content we’re commissioning in this harrowing time of a pandemic and how we can help people. But we also talked about how we were feeling. One colleague mentioned that what she felt was grief. Heads nodded in all the panes.
Sales must go on. I get it. But in the face of COVID-19, everything has changed. So how do you approach sales during a global crisis? That’s what I’m going to talk about in this article. Keep reading to learn the mindset shift that MUST happen for you to sell in this environment, plus six tips for talking to people in the bleakest of times.
SCALING YOUR TECH BUSINESS BY DOMINIC MONKHOUSE
Calling all CEOs, Founders and Managing Partners! Learn valuable scale-up strategies in a brand new book by the UK’s top tech industry business coach, Dominic Monkhouse. Dom has a track record of scaling-up award-winning technology businesses, including two UK based companies from zero revenue to £30 million within five years. Now he is sharing the secrets behind his success in a new book, FREE to all Melting Pot subscribers. The download will be available very soon. Watch out for your copy!
The New York Times-bestselling author of Start With Why, Leaders Eat Last, and Together Is Better offers a bold new approach to business strategy by asking one question: are you playing the finite game or the infinite game?
In The Infinite Game, Sinek applies game theory to explore how great businesses achieve long-lasting success. He finds that building long-term value and healthy, enduring growth – that playing the infinite game – is the only thing that matters to your business.
MEANINGFUL ACTION FOR MONDAY
Research shows that we’re hard-wired for negativity. It’s a well known scientific fact that the human brain has a ‘negativity bias’ – it reacts more strongly to stimuli it deems as bad. Our attitudes are more heavily influenced by downbeat news than good news. And let’s face it. There’s plenty of bad news right now. So work on initiatives that build positivity. Next week, set up an on-going email thread called ‘What I did at the weekend’. Encourage employees to share photos and videos of interesting things they’ve done. Share good news, however small.