Kent Gregoire is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Boston and CEO of Symphony Advantage, which helps CEOs achieve ongoing personal and professional success through strategic thinking, advice and planning. During the Great Recession of 2008-10, Kent guided dozens of CEOs and their companies successfully through the crisis and positioned them to capitalize on the economic expansion that followed. We asked Kent how embracing conscious capitalism while strategizing through the current Covid-19 turmoil can benefit companies both in the short- and long-term. Here's what he shared:
Crisis management is the unsung skill required of great leaders. It's often overlooked--until a situation like the one confronting us now. Strong leaders will innately motivate, connect and inspire their teams. Now is the time to show genuine compassion and humility: We didn't see this coming, but now we're all in it together.
The global Covid-19 pandemic is creating a potentially unprecedented crisis. Smart leaders are looking ahead and strategizing how to make it through with both company and employees intact.
With multiple unknown unknowns, how will you manage this crisis successfully? How can your business shift from vanishing revenue streams to ones that will see increases?
The Role of Conscious Capitalism
Move forward using the tenets of conscious capitalism: Focus on your purpose beyond profit. What can you do now and throughout the crisis that will shape how you continue to operate as we (eventually) move beyond it? What steps can you take to increase resiliency, elevate humanity and prepare your company to embrace the next wave of economic expansion?
True heroes will be minted in this era. Don't miss your opportunity to do the right thing for your company and employees. It will benefit your organization in the long run.
Here are 10 ways to keep your company firmly planted in the "resilience zone":
- Never lose sight of your company's higher purpose. Remember your "Why" and focus on who your company serves. They're your primary audience. Don't let emotions distract from your Why--instead, use it as an opportunity and focal point.
- Share your Why. Stakeholders already in tune with your higher purpose will rally around you. If any stakeholders don't clearly understand your Why, share it with them to find out how they will help you move the needle now and in the future.
- Focus on resilience. While we all need money to survive, now is the time to build resilience for the future. It's crucial to create value with and for all company stakeholders--society, customers, employees, suppliers, investors, communities, the environment and so on. If you haven't done so, approach stakeholders about building mutually beneficial relationships, rather than focusing on individual transactions.
- Collaborate and share problems. Stay open to collaboration and shared problem-solving. What solutions can you find in your supplier-customer relationships? Might you even work with competitors to ensure mutual survival? Search for mutual gains: "I'll concede X if you can concede Y for me." Negotiate from a mindset of shared sacrifice that yields mutual survival.
- Consider all stakeholders. Employees work for your company because they believe in Why you exist. Conscious leadership requires leading from a place in which employees are clear on your Why and how their changing roles support it. Always tie what you're asking employees to do back to your company's higher purpose. That connection gives employees a reason to put forth maximum energy, enthusiasm and commitment on your stakeholders' behalf. By encouraging employees, shareholders, customers and suppliers to work individually and collectively to achieve the higher purpose, everyone wins.
- Leave no employee behind. If your company is like a family, try to find a path through the crisis based around shared sacrifice with a goal of zero layoffs. When I guided companies through the Great Recession, many implemented shared sacrifice to survive. For example, if every team member takes four unpaid weeks, it may free up enough cash to survive the crisis intact. If everyone suffers a little, the entire company may endure.
Implement transparency. As you strategize, involve your team. Transparency is key to weathering the crisis. For example, a colleague from EO Italy shared her cash management report to show her team that the company has sufficient cash. Being honest about the state of your company and how you plan to move forward helps employees feel safe--and leads to higher levels of engagement and commitment to your plan.
- The company must survive. If your burn rate is high and a zero layoff policy isn't feasible, you'll need to make painful decisions to cut jobs. A CEO's primary responsibility is to save the company and, therefore, some jobs, rather than lose the entire organization and all jobs.
- Provide next-level value to customers. Listen intently to customer needs, and be part of their plan as they also navigate these uncertain times. Customers may have unusual requirements--address them as an opportunity to demonstrate concern, care and kindness. Rather than trying to maximize sales, focus on enhancing customers' quality of life. Creating value in crisis is a win-win-win.
- Seek credible information and advice. It's imperative that CEOs and key executives take care not to get caught up in panic drama. Stay informed by consulting credible sources. Don't over-focus on news channels or social media. Discuss regularly with other entrepreneurs and consult business advisors--many are offering to give of their time! Being alone breeds feelings of powerlessness and fear. Leverage the significant value in connecting with your community to share concerns and best practices. Lonely is one of the worst things that a CEO can be right now.
During the early days of this crisis, you'll have to make difficult, short-term decisions to ensure your company's long-term survival. You must consider not only the bottom line but also your higher purpose. By sustaining your investment in employees and customers, you'll be better positioned to adapt to the unique challenges this crisis brings.