Employees for the Future

In July we’re taking a look at some things that have changed and/or become more important throughout the challenges, changes and transformation brought on by the virus and related issues. Last week we talked about being helpful, the second week we talked about how businesses can do a better job of working with customers, the first week we talked about communication, and this week as we wrap up we’re going to talk about employees.

So much has changed in the world over the past few months, from people working from home who have never done so in the past to people who are going to work as they’ve always done, but now it’s a possible health risk to do so. There have also been major changes and disruptions in the supply chain which created many questions employees couldn’t answer for customers, even when they usually could have in the past. It’s been an exercise in patience and in working in the unknown that few have experienced before. So what does it mean going forward?

One of the things I think it taught everyone was that an office wasn’t strictly necessary for doing many jobs. Yes, some companies need their employees to be physically present, but I think it opened everyone’s eyes to the fact that as long as you trust your employees and they desire to work from home, working from home at least part time is something that can be done going forward and it will help with stress and environmental impact and reduce budgets too.

Which brings us to the second point, and that’s the importance of communicating and truly partnering with your employees. Companies may not have known when supplies were coming in, but they certainly could give their employees daily updates about what they did know, what was changing or developing and hear from them about what they’re experiencing with customers and their personal concerns, thoughts and ideas as well. For many companies this was a first because they never really communicated with their team about what was going on in the company, and now they were forced to really partner with their employees and see them as team players. I would say that a good percentage of employees have always been willing to be team players, but companies haven’t been very good about tapping into that or working with them and as a result businesses often have high turnover and employees feel unappreciated, unheard and not cared for.

So what is next? My hope is that more companies will ultimately do a better job of talking with their employees and being better about working with them. Maybe this means working at least some from home, maybe this means education in areas that interest them and exposure to different parts of the company, and maybe this means different hours that work better with their home needs. I definitely think companies can and hopefully will do better about keeping them in the loop about what’s going on, do better about empowering them, do better with listening to them and hearing their concerns, suggestions and feedback based on what they see and experience with customers, and do better at treating them as valuable parts of a team.

What changes has this virus inspired you to make with your team?

What Might and Might Not Change in Future Business

There’s a lot of talk about how we are going to “return to normal” or “recover” or “what’s next” when it comes to life and business. It’s important to have these conversations as connected to the virus, and with an opportunity to reevaluate how we’ve been doing things. While I wish we weren’t dealing with the virus, it has really forced the conversations that many businesses have avoided about what might be better for them or their employees and customers. Today I thought I’d touch on a few of the conversations I’ve been hearing around the internet.

Let’s start with the internet. If you’ve been here for a while you know that I don’t believe you should be in business today without some type of virtual presence. Maybe that’s just a website with some information and a newsletter signup space, maybe that’s also a blog, social accounts, an app, or an online shop, but I don’t believe you should be in business in 2020 without an online presence. It costs very little if you go very basic and for the most part if you’ve got some basic technology experience, it’s easy to create an online presence. So, when we do get through this pandemic and return to a version of normal I don’t think we should step back from the steps we’ve taken to have more virtual businesses and better support for our customers virtually. So this means retaining the online church services, pick-up from restaurants, and overall increased web-presence.

Second, everyone is going to be taking a much closer look at offices. I don’t think they’re going to immediately disappear because there are a lot of bosses and managers who feel the need to micromanage and don’t trust that people will be able to keep things as secure at home as they may think they are at the offices. And to an extent there is a level of security that comes with offices that isn’t as assured at home. Security and not-great bosses aside, there aren’t too many other reasons why businesses should have offices. Meetings by and large can be held virtually, and those that can’t can certainly happen in an event or meeting space (that’s professionally cleaned between meetings of course). I have worked in a couple of offices, and there certainly is something to be said for being able to walk down the hall and talk with someone in person about a situation or throw an idea around, but you can do that on the phone or through a video call or get out and meet for coffee or in a park. For the businesses that haven’t gone completely virtual and still have a ton of paperwork around, I don’t think it’s necessary to be in-office every day, and you can have a much smaller office space at that point.

Third, customers are showing willingness to try new brands in this season of inconsistent availability. This doesn’t reflect necessarily on the brands they’ve historically chosen, although there’s always a chance of them finding something they like better, chances are good that customers will go back to the brands they’ve always loved when products are available consistently again. Regardless, it’s an excellent time to build up loyalty with your customers, offering them support and consistently communicating with them so that as things progress they know that you’ll be there to support and grow with them.

Finally, I don’t think there’s anything that can or should completely sever our desire to go out and do our own shopping in stores and boutiques, attend sporting and entertainment events together, tour in person places for sale and for rent, and other in-person activities. The reliance on virtual life over the past few weeks will likely negatively impact all industries that historically relied on in-person attendance (entertainment, sports, travel, restaurants etc.), but some of them can recapture those people who have found they prefer to be virtual through virtual offerings as incomes return to normal. Watching a ball game from home is no where close to what it is to attend one in person, it’s not the same to eat a take-out meal from a fancy restaurant, and no amount of video can really capture distant lands. So for now businesses in these industries have to adapt, but people will be returning at some point in the future.

What are you seeing in your business as this pandemic progresses?

What Comes Next: Partnership and Teamwork

In continuing the essential conversation of where we go from here as businesses, I think one great place to start is with looking at what we’ve been doing during this pandemic, and that’s working together. I’ve always been a big supporter and encourager of doing joint ventures, cross promotions and supporting each other, especially as small businesses. Yes, some larger stores like Target, Costco and BJ’s are well known for selling some products from small businesses, typically buying a block of products and selling them until they run out. And that’s a great step up for many companies on many levels. But they rarely do promotion of those products or the companies that run them, unlike small businesses often do for each other, exposing them to their audiences physically and virtually.

So starting with what we’ve been doing with the pandemic, what if we just started by asking how we can support each other? It’s what we’ve been doing to help each other survive through this very challenging time, but I think it’s also something that we should do more of after. Sometimes that need may be a product need, other times it’s a people need (team members to support a busy event), maybe it’s an introduction to a partner you’ve worked with in the past, other times it’s to do a joint venture on a product that would be great for their customers and provide some income for you. You can always say no or come back with another idea or different timeline, but there’s great potential to be had if we take the time to ask how we can help support each other and our communal success.

Beyond that, in the pandemic the big buzz word for many business owners is “pivot.” It’s not a new word, but recently become more relevant as we consider the current and possible future of how we sell and work together. In line with the idea of joint venture product production and asking how we can help, many companies are adjusting to meet the needs of people, including creating essential supplies that they’ve never planned or wanted to make. In some ways I think it will be more important than ever to be in the entertainment and hospitality industries in the future, that there will be an increased demand after seeing what we’ve lost or been unable to access. But we also have to consider what is really essential and how we can meet those needs in the future, because some businesses will definitely take a more permanent hit. I think all of our businesses will have to do some pivoting, likely by working together and learning from each other to do it.

Finally, I’ve been so excited and blessed by seeing how many companies and leaders are working together to get through this pandemic. I’ve been getting (relevant) updates from politicians, more than just requests for money from non profits, whole industries are working together rather than fighting for customers or seeing each other as competition, and companies are working together to get food and other necessary products into the hands of people who need them. Most of these don’t take a lot of money, but they make a big difference for a lot of people, even if it’s just to show that they care and aren’t just about the bottom line.

Do you have experience working with other businesses? Has this experience over the past few months changed how you’re going to do business and who you’re doing it with?

Be Careful What You Ask For

I distinctly remember when we were working our way out of 2019 and into 2020 how excited we were about moving into a new year and new decade, emphasis on the “new,” and leaving behind what had been a rough couple of years for some of us. Well, the funny thing about putting something out into the universe is that you have to be careful about what you put out there. I say this because we most certainly are working towards something new, by ways of a world-wide pandemic which is something that I don’t think anyone would have agreed to as part of the process to “new.”

I get asked questions by other business owners and people working to achieve success all the time and more times than not I have to ask for clarification on what they’re asking because the question they asked me was really vague or could be answered in a dozen different ways. Sometimes what you really need is someone helping you figure out how to ask a better question or to figure out what a better question is, but that’s not typically what people are thinking about or looking for. I love giving advice, but I could give hours of advice before I really get to the topic that would benefit someone unless they have a (more) specific question or topic.

The good news is that we are indeed presented with the opportunity to create something new, awesome, powerful and supportive for ourselves and the others that we share this world with. If we’re honest, how do we expect to get something new if we don’t make changes, right? Part of the challenge is that we probably weren’t very clear back in 2019 what “new” looked like anyway, we just knew that we didn’t want what we had been experiencing. Hopefully this pandemic development will be like ripping a band-aid off, and it just very expediently brought us to a bottom and we’ll have just enough time to consider and make plans for next steps by the time things start to turn around.

Take time to process the losses you’re experiencing and the dramatic change of your life, it’s totally normal to be experiencing some or all of the stages of grief as part of this journey. Then send thoughts of kindness, love and healing to the world, focusing on healing rather than the fear or uncertainties. I don’t have all the answers to what our new world will look like or when we’ll get there, but I do know that you’ve got options on how you move through this challenge. The future will eventually be here, we will eventually move through this crisis, and what “new” looks like will depend largely on what you do with this time. What do you want the new future to look like?

Teaching Kids About Changes and Choice

We’re all making different choices than we’ve made before thanks to this virus, aren’t we? It used to be we had to decide things that we’ve had to decide for likely many years past, and now we’re making decisions about who gets what location to do their work or homework, what ideas we can come up with to keep those in our family who aren’t thrilled with the change of pace and changed/limited activities to keep from getting bored, and how to keep everyone fed and a roof over our heads while all this goes on.  It’s also not easy to explain all of this to them, especially since we don’t have many answers ourselves.

It’s healthy to both miss the past and anticipate the future. No, we don’t know what the future holds, nor could we have really anticipated our present. But that’s the way life works, and it’s up to us to navigate it to the best of our abilities. It’s also up to each of us to raise up the next generation to learn from the experiences we had and hope that we’ve equipped them to be able to tackle whatever comes their way.

I encourage you to use this time of change and transition and being in close quarters with family to not just take a break, but pass on the essential skills they’ll need whether they face something like this virus again or not.  Give your kids the experience and knowledge they need in the kitchen, either with your personal knowledge (or your partner’s) or through an online video course, to be able to cook healthy and nourishing foods as well as fun ones too.  Teach them how to research online (and in the library when it reopens) so they can build their knowledge from a variety of sources at any time so they have fewer limitations in their future.  Give them opportunities to practice making quick, educated and gut decisions, so that they’re prepared to make their own wise decisions in the future.  Encourage them to make good health practices and look after others.

We didn’t ask for this time of challenge and transition, but we’ve been given the choice on how we deal with it.  I hope you’re not panicking, but instead are using this time productively with your family.  What are you helping your kids learn and what are they teaching you?

Cancelling Criticism

The world is going through an unprecedented time of confusion, challenge and change. We have yet to see how our lives change after the dust settles, and if I’m honest, I don’t want it to go 100% back to the way it was, because that means that we didn’t learn anything from all the people whose lives were lost as a result of this virus. My hope is that we’ll all get out of this situation wiser and better prepared for whatever the future holds for us, hopefully wise enough not to see a repeat of things as they’ve gone or worse.

We’re facing a lot of challenges on many levels right now, and along with challenges is the need to find the reason for the challenge or figure out what got us to this point. I think it’s important, not so that we can point blame, but so that we can do our best to avoid creating a similar situation in the future. Of course the likelihood is that there isn’t just one reason we’re in the situation we’re in, but several factors and things that have lead to this point on the health level. But beyond the health crisis, is the question of the response of people and businesses in a situation like this in the future and learning to work together better, both protecting each other and protecting all our finances, jobs and futures.

There has been a lot of reaction to this virus, instead of being able to respond with a pre-considered plan and immediate action to best support each other and the businesses in our areas and keep life as normal and productive as possible. That means all businesses and non-profits need an online presence and plan that could be put into immediate action should something like this present again to continue supporting both customers and employees in smart and safe manners as fully as possible. It means individuals and families need to do the best they can to get ahead, not on top of, their bills and finances. And it means each and every one of us needs to be on top of our health and wellness and taking necessary steps more consistently and proactively to protect ourselves and the rest of the people we share this world with.

I encourage you to shut off the criticism and instead start working on supporting and making proactive decisions to make our world better and stronger.

Reality Reflection: Victories and Change

We talk a lot about the topic of change when it comes to life and victories, and yet we’ve never faced a change quite like this in our lives. This challenge has created a lot of stress in our lives and created lots of changes, but has also opened up a lot of opportunities for us. I’m talking about the things that we’ve thought about doing for months if not years, and never made the time or been handed the time to get that stuff done. I don’t like many of the changes and challenges we’re facing right now any more than you do, but we’ve got a choice what we’re going to do with what’s been handed to us.

Like other times in our lives, I think it is important to take time to grieve and attempt to comprehend our changed world. It’s absolutely likely that we’ll return to what we used to know as normal sometime in the near future, but something of this scale cannot be quickly forgotten, nor the scars erased so quickly. If we don’t take time to process and plan for something of this nature in the future, all of the people who experienced great loss during this time (and that’s many people around the world) will have made those sacrifices in vain. All or most of all of us are suffering or sacrificing in one way or another at this time, most of us are disrupted in some way or another, and there’s no shame in admitting that you need time to rant about it or time to process the way your heart is breaking. So go ahead and take time if and when you need it to process not only the tragedy happening, but also the possible ways our world will change in the future.

Then choose how you’re going to move forward with your life. Choose to make the best decisions you can about your health and nutrition. Choose to invest in the relationships that mean the most to you. Do the best you can to invest and plan ahead for something challenging like this in the future. And do something each and every day to feel a sense of accomplishment, whether that’s cleaning out a closet, doing your taxes, exercise, cleaning up your garden, painting a room, cooking a meal, playing with your pet(s), doing homework with your kids, spending quality time with your significant other or reading a book.

There are no hard and fast answers at this time, so it’s up to each of us to do our best with where we’re at. Take advantage of any time you’ve been given and put it to good use. Don’t let a day go by that you tell someone you love them or are thankful for them. Never forget that each and every day of health and life is a gift. Do something positive each day, and choose to live your life.

The End of a Decade

During the holiday season we often slow down and live a little differently with more gatherings and celebrations and time off, which is in many ways one of the best ways to end a year because it gives us time to focus on what should be most important in our lives but we don’t always have (or make) time for during the rest of the year. As we transition to not only a new year but also a new decade this week I was reminded that our slow times are busier and fuller than the lives of people 100 years ago, and that they could never last a day in our shoes. I know it can be frustrating to reach the end of another year and not be where you wanted to be, but maybe reflecting on this can give you some peace about what you have and haven’t accomplished over the past year and decade.

For obvious reasons, this year change seems bigger and more important, as if the change to a new decade is somehow different from the usual calendar turn, which it really isn’t. But at the same time it does seem fresher and more of a clean slate than we usually get. The interesting thing about clean slates is that it infers that there’s something to clean off the slate, and that’s certainly true for the decade we’re finishing. It used to be that we could come up with a list of things that happened and that list would be fairly brief, but now there isn’t one list for everything or everyone because, as we talked about before, there’s so much more going on in our lives now than there used to be. I can’t remember everything from the last decade of my life, let alone everything and everyone that happened in the world. And I think that’s OK. It just puts more pressure on us in our already crazy lives to try to remember it all.

So given that, how do we review the past decade of our world and our lives? I think we just review what and who we do remember because that’s what has stuck with us. In taking time to think about the ways we’ve grown, the people who are and aren’t part of our lives, the mistakes we’ve made, lessons we’ve learned, ways we’ve helped, the fears we’ve faced and conquered, and the milestones we’ve reached, we give ourselves the opportunity to choose to build on those experiences and people, or fully let them go with the decade as it ends. And if you can’t remember anything, well, maybe your goal this coming decade is to live a more memorable life.

What are your thoughts on the decade that is ending?

Change for a New Year

We’ve got a new year waiting for us, and a new decade too, just a couple of days away. As I was thinking about this calendar change I got to thinking about our kids and schooling and how school starts in September or August and how the new calendar year starts in January. Add to that how companies can start/be “born” any time of year, or how we can start a job any time of year and you add additional layers of change and schedules onto the pile.

As strange or challenging as it may be, I do think that the different school and calendar start times have some good lessons to learn in them though, primarily in regularly introducing kids to the idea of change. The new year introduces some changes, but they’re mostly good changes, certainly not changes that come with a lot of baggage or concern like some school years start with. So having the calendar change at a different time from the school year change keeps kids in practice with change happening, but also exposes them to the idea that change isn’t bad or scary, at least not all the time, and it does happen regularly.

As adults we certainly embrace the new year a little stronger than we do other types of change, typically because we’re ready to move on to what the next year holds. It’s a great way for us to be released from what the past year was, or to be lifted into the next greatest part of our journey. With this change being a typically positive one, it helps us do better with teaching change to our kids as well.

Yes, we do often use a new year to talk about making changes in our lives, like eating healthier or exercising more, but even if we don’t embrace or practice using this time of year to make changes in our lives, just the practice of accepting and even celebrating this change of calendar year can be good for everyone.

So as we head into the new year next week, I encourage you to take time to reflect on what may be changing or what has changed over the past year, and do the same with your kids. You may be surprised at what you remember from this year that is ending.

Inviting in Change

Autumn began again yesterday. I always have a hard time accepting the beginning of autumn because it means winter soon follows. But that’s not a line of thinking that really benefits me, because there are tons of things I greatly enjoy about autumn like the beginning of gatherings of loved ones, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, hot apple cider (and all hot beverages), and autumn decorations. So I’m going to do my best this autumn to live in the moment and enjoy each day as it comes with whatever autumn related changes happen, and not think about what comes down the road weather wise.

But even if I am able to really enjoy each autumn day for what it is, there’s something you can’t miss or ignore about autumn, in fact autumn practically personifies it, and that would be change. You can’t talk about autumn and the changes of leaves, or the changes of temperature, or the changes of schedule, without change. Ironically the other morning as I was seeing leaves of bright colors outside my bathroom window and thinking about how my plans for the day weren’t going as anticipated, I thought of the old saying ‘plans change.’

Change is really one of the secrets of life and success. If you want to be successful there’s very little that you can be successful doing that doesn’t change in some way, shape, or form. For example, people still use candles just like they did thousands of years ago, but for many years many made them while now most buy them, and many buy them online, something that couldn’t have been done even just 30 years ago. Candles are still part of our lives, but there is much that has changed about the experience since those early days.

Autumn comes whether you invite it in or not, but you do have to invite in many aspects of change, especially if you want them to help you thrive in life. The harder you fight them, the more you ignore them, the further you push them down on your to-do list, not only will you be more miserable, you’ll also struggle more and find yourself further from the successes you may desire. It may not be easy to invite change in, but I suggest you don’t wait until you hit an emergency or a breaking point before making changes. Working with change also gives you the opportunity to have a say in what your future holds. Autumn has arrived, will you invite change into your life with it?