Let’s talk about the bear in the room.
I think we can all agree that economic conditions aren’t the best right now. With the current circumstances, there will be a lot of change coming down the road. It could be short term, or it could be long term.
When fear takes hold, that’s when a lot of businesses will cling to the status quo. But I’ve always been a believer that you can't be afraid of change; it must be something you embrace, especially in unsettled economic times. I’m not saying you should change for the sake of change, but a lot of people are on the other extreme: they push change off and offer up excuses why everything should stay just the way it is.
Embrace it or hide from it, change is a fact of business life. The question is: How do you help your team navigate change in a way that doesn’t make them overly anxious as you try to manage expectations? Your goal is to steward your business and employees through change in a way that leads to growth and professional exploration.
Go where the data leads
When faced with change, we must approach it from an informed perspective–the right mindset. Are your decisions based on your gut feeling (whether it’s good or bad) or on what the data actually shows? Data helps you take an irrational conclusion and turn it into a rational one.
While we can't always have all the data, we can constantly monitor, measure, and adjust on a frequent basis according to internal (i.e., personnel or hiring) and external factors (i.e., economy, industry, or supply chain). You’re always looking at that information–evaluating it, exploring possible options, and learning about new opportunities. Then, you can continuously make decisions based on where the data leads.
Humans tend to think in worst-case scenarios, especially in volatile economies and during a time when headlines are hitting us from all angles–including traditional news channels and social media. Combat this feeling by having the facts: oftentimes when you see the numbers, it's not as bad as you think.
During COVID, we helped clients generate different scenarios based on their specific company and the COVID economy: best-case tier, middle tier, and worst-case tier. Once we did the math, most of our clients found themselves in the middle tier, so maybe they had to pivot rather than make a radical course-correction.
Thanks to this proactive approach, even the few who fell in the ‘worst-case tier’ were not caught off guard. Having anticipated the possibility with our forecast, they were empowered to make those hard changes with a clear perspective.
Bridge the communication gap
As Summit gets larger, it’s impossible for me to communicate company-wide changes with each person. I don’t have the bandwidth.
A business owner needs a “boots on the ground” person or team to ensure changes are being effectively communicated. For me, it’s Summit’s leadership team, five members who represent each department within the company—tax, IT, marketing, HR, and accounting.
Each one of them meets with everyone on their individual team once a week. As a leadership team, we meet once a week, too; during that meeting, I can gauge employee needs, feelings, and questions based on each leader’s respective feedback from their team. This helps save time, collects information needed to make informed decisions, and outlines trends.
The leadership team is my eyes and ears, and I trust them to let me know what their departments need during a period of change. Then, it’s my job as a leader to support them from a resource standpoint.
No matter what happens during the change process, it is important to be transparent with your entire staff; having an open dialogue with everyone and offering transparency builds trust among your team. If even one employee is caught off guard, it is not good for company morale.
One way to ensure that transparency is a continuous process, and not just during times of change, is to make sure you communicate your company’s core values and live them daily. For example, one of Summit’s core values is collaboration. We merged with Anders CPAs + Advisors earlier this year, allowing us to better collaborate with a like-minded firm to give our clients better services. While it was a big change for us as a company, it aligned with our core values.
We also foster curiosity (another core value), which enables employees to spark their own change if they find a new software or process that makes their job more efficient. Modeling transparency through support of your core values helps manage expectations among employees.
Data + Team Leadership + Transparency = A Smooth Change Journey
From the very beginning of Summit, change has been important. If companies don't change over time, they go stagnant. You must constantly be looking for the right change. And as your business and team grow, change can get harder and harder because it affects more people; we’ve learned that this year through our merger process.
You can’t be reactive though. You must always look for the right change and be proactive so that you can thrive during the change. Look at all the data, appoint a spokesperson or team, and provide transparency. These steps will ensure a smooth change journey and set the precedent for future changes.
At Summit CPA we offer multiple resources to assist and help your business grow. If you’re ready to get an edge on your competitors? Contact our office at (866) 497-9761to schedule an appointment with our advisors.