President | CEO | Churchill Mortgage Corporation
If you had told me in December 2019 what we were going to face in 2020, even with more than 40 years of business experience, it would have deeply troubled and worried me. I’ve learned quite a few things in my years as an entrepreneur. In fact, I’ve learned most from my failures and mistakes. That is one of the keys to success in life and in business—learning from mistakes.
As the economy works to bounce back from the challenges of 2020, there are a few things small businesses can do to recover and better position themselves for the future.
Invest In Your Biggest Asset
A key element to a company’s success and one that has proven true for our mortgage company is to take great care of your employees. We operate under the belief that if we treat our employees well, our employees will treat our customers well and then our customers will treat our company well. It’s a circle the foundation of which lies in our most important asset: our employees. Company leaders must ask themselves: “Are we treating our employees well? Are we respecting them as individuals? Are we fairly compensating them?”
It’s not enough just to treat employees well—you must hire the right employees to begin with. We use the book The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni to teach our managers across the company what to look for in an employee. Regardless of position, employers must look for a person who is hungry, smart and humble.
If the employee is hungry, they will have a desire to grow and learn. Whether on the job for 6 months or 16 years, they will want to become better every day; they are hungry for success. Smart employees have a discernible skill set that makes them a strong candidate to fill the role on your team. Lastly, a humble employee is not one who feels unworthy of success. A humble employee realizes that where they are and the success they have achieved is not just because of their hard work and skills, but also because of other people in the organization who have built the company to its current state and those who have helped position the employee for success.
Once you select the right employees, retaining this top talent is critical to the success of the company. To hold on to employees, you must treat them right. As you bring employees back into the workplace or hire new employees, make sure you have the right team and are creating a culture where they can win and succeed.
Remember That Cash Is King
Another thing I’ve learned that has enormous value to business owners is building cash reserves. Companies that intentionally build up cash reserves are going to weather a storm like a pandemic or recession much better than those who don’t.
Sadly, there is a possibility that many small businesses may never come back, because they were not equipped to weather a storm of this magnitude. By building cash reserves, your small business is prepared for smoother sailing should disaster strike.
Tap Into Your Entrepreneurial Spirit
Think back to when you started your small business: What gave you great joy and excitement? Tapping back into what fueled you when you started your business can fuel your exploration into how to recover it.
It’s important to recognize that how you’ve done business in the past is probably not how you will do business in the future. This is a time where speed of implementation is key. If you have an idea for your business, don’t overanalyze it. Growing companies aren’t afraid to take on small levels of risk and try new things. Not every idea will work, but the cost of a small failed idea won’t kill your business. Ultimately, you will learn so much and could revolutionize the way you do business in the long run.
Meet People Where They Are
Lately, there has been no shortage of fear and anxiety. To effectively lead your business, take hold of the fear and anxiety and turn it into a healthy pressure that causes you to think about what the market is asking for today versus yesterday and meet people where they are.
This applies to both employees and customers. You’ve got to figure out what people are now comfortable with and innovate to meet them there so they want to engage with your business. For example, consider the rise in stores and restaurants offering curbside pickup so consumers can still make purchases from the safety of their vehicles. As companies gradually bring their employees back to work, meet them where they want to be and feel most comfortable so they can be the most productive. They have proven that they can work remotely, if the business allows it. Offer them flexibility and allow them to reengage with the company in a way that makes them feel secure.
While 2020 has certainly had its challenges, when looking back, I realize our company was well prepared. Over the years, we have built up significant cash reserves and avoided debt. We learned that by hiring the right employees and providing them with the right tools, they can work from home successfully without missing a beat. In fact, despite all of the hurdles we have had to overcome, we have experienced a record year. As business leaders look to the future, honing their entrepreneurial mindset and preparing their companies with the right people, culture and cash reserves can ensure a brighter future in the post-pandemic world.
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