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Pivot Part 3: Planning and Action

August 19, 2020

Courtesy of Kim Bode, owner of 8THIRTYFOUR Integrated Communications

I know we’re all sick of the word pivot, but I gotta finish the blog series so just hold on through this last part. If you’re new to this riveting blog series, read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Let’s wrap this sucker up and discuss the painful steps I had to take as a business owner to ensure my company survived and continues to survive this damn pandemic.

Step 3: Planning

Our office manager and I spent a lot of time on this phase, we sat through countless calls and webinars with the Grand Rapids Chamber and the Small Business Association of Michigan determining how to implement what we had learned in the education phase.

The key to our success, thus far, is absolutely the people and companies we surrounded ourselves with. Always hire people smarter than you and retain companies that possess the expertise you don’t.

The first thing we did was map out our priorities and the steps we needed to take:

  • Finances: We knew we had to layoff staff immediately, apply for funds available through grants and the federal government, and cut expenses. We determined what grants we would go after, identified the information we would need to apply, and then reached out to our accountants at Hungerford Nichols to pick their brains on other options.
  • Layoff: I pride myself on being very transparent and honest with my staff. Once we made the difficult decision to layoff two staff members, we set a date and asked other staff to work from home that morning to respect the privacy of our two employees. Our office manager sat down with each of them and assisted them in applying for unemployment as well as providing them the information they needed from 8THIRTYFOUR. We also checked in with them weekly to see if we could offer any other assistance.
  • Staff conversation: We spoke with staff immediately and let them know the tough decision we made. We answered any questions they had and talked about next steps. I honestly thought they would think I failed them, I certainly felt like I did. They were amazing, I honestly could not ask for a better team, they were understanding, complimentary, and appreciative. It was an incredible relief the way they handled it.
  • Work from home: I know of multiple companies that struggled with their employees working from home. It was definitely a transition for us. We wrote up a policy, purchased Zoom to stay connected, and adhered to our same hours…although I had to step in when staff was working too much. It’s one of the reasons we wrote the blog on working from home guilt. I was concerned they would become burned out.
  • Staff morale: Our team thrives on togetherness, we all really like each other, and being a small team we are pretty tightknit, not to mention very social. To keep spirits up, I sent packages bi-weekly to their homes. I sent a journal with notecards, an inspirational book, and a coloring book and markers. It was as much for me as for them, I wanted them to know how much I appreciated them.
  • Worst case scenario: My leadership team and I mapped out our worst-case scenarios to help us plan our steps to recover. We outlined milestones that if we hit we would take the next step in the plan. For example, if we lost another client, we would cut staff salaries or we would negotiate our office rent.

Step 4: Action

I’m not going to map out every action we took, but below is what we were absolutely consistent on which I truly believe set us up for success.

  • Daily internal check-ins
  • SBAM daily briefings, including the weekend
  • Calls and emails with our banker, accountant, and lawyer
  • Research, research, and more research. We read every piece of information out there – PPP, EOs, and every other acronym.

We also worked around the clock, we had calls on the weekend and were in constant contact. Well, things have started to settle down, we know returning to work is our next big priority.

We lost revenue, employees, and a lot of peace of mind…but we survived. Years from now I will reread these blogs to give myself some much-needed perspective when things seem dire for a completely different reason.

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