Starting a business in Cleveland? Here are five things to do, in this order

Our insurance brokerage firm, Lockton Cos., opened a Cleveland office in March — a challenging time, to say the least, as the impact of COVID-19 began to set in and the “business of business” ground to a halt.

Experienced business leaders know keeping teams hyperfocused on their organization’s core objectives can be a challenge. In times like these, complicated with external distractions and uncertainty, tackling that challenge requires a true team effort.

Even with relentless focus and discipline, early success sometimes needs just a little bit of luck, and that’s where our story begins. Early on, I was keenly aware of our leadership team’s professional strengths. What I’ve been “lucky” to experience along the way is the team’s perseverance despite today’s business environment.

As their contributions have played such a significant role in our early achievements, I asked each member of the leadership group to share what they believe has been a key lesson of the past few months. Here are the responses:

1. It’s all about culture: “Good people are the key ingredient to successful culture, so be sure to stay connected and continue to foster relationships, wherever you are. We only had one day in the office together as a team before the pandemic hit. Technology and video have been the top two tools we use to not only stay connected, but also connect with our partners around the world. The organization even invested in a personal trainer that we each have access to, so our mental and physical well-being remain in top shape.” — Eugenia Chahda, account executive

2. Live your unique skill set: “We’re insurance professionals, not marketing or public relations experts. During times like these, people don’t want to be sold and our team has a responsibility to educate and support clients and the marketplace through these challenging times. By hiring a proven marketing and public relations agency, we’ve been able to spend our time developing and distributing thought leadership and impactful content.” — Monica Trusley, senior vice president and director of sales

3. Lean on your network: “Never turn down a meeting or conversation. You never know where (or who) it might lead you. It is part of human nature to help each other, and meeting various groups of people across diverse industries has opened our eyes to different perspectives and points of view. Understanding these viewpoints gives our team the opportunity to look in the mirror, honestly assess where we are, and identify where we need to grow to meet the needs of our clients. Whether you’ve been in this business for 20 minutes or 20 years, there’s always something to learn, and your network’s unique perspectives can help you see things in a new light.” — Tracey Jaycox, vice president and director of client management

4. Hire smart people, then move over: “This may sound cliché, but investing in your team should be at the top of the list when starting a business. Empowering your employees with the tools and authority they need to accomplish their work builds trust and morale for long-term success. Providing the confidence to know that failing in fact is an opportunity to grow builds a support system for employees to take risks. Taking risks pushes boundaries and encourages employees to step outside the 9-5 cycle of running on autopilot.” — Ben Light, president and team lead

5. Listen more than you talk: “As a team, we all believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach for our clients, and we’re up to the challenge of customizing our offerings, our approach and the client experience. Listening to our clients’ needs may take more time up front, but it’s the only way to ensure that we drive the specific outcomes that are most important and impactful for our clients.” — Monica Trusley

Whether starting a business in the perfect environment or navigating unprecedented economic conditions through a pandemic, these fundamentals serve as a great reminder while reinforcing the power of a strong leadership team.

Anthony is the president of Lockton Ohio, an independently owned insurance firm.

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