A Q&A With FIELDBOSS President, Jonathan Taub
How did the pandemic affect your business operations? What changed?
We were already working remotely to a great extent, so our day to day business operations did not change much at all. If anything, we spent more time with clients who were new to working remotely.
Without trade shows and in person sales calls that required flights, more time became available to complete tasks and strategic work that was being neglected.
Sales have been strong for us during the pandemic thus far, which we attribute to decision makers having more time to reflect and attend to strategic projects that were on their list of things to do.
As for staff, around 35% of our employees had school aged children that they had to contend with. We gave those people a lot of empathy and flexibility.
What new innovative approaches did you adopt to bring in business? / What did you do differently than you previously had done?
Our pipeline was strong and unexpectedly more work came in than normal, so we have had the luxury of being busy since the pandemic broke out. We recently hired an experienced engineer plus a salesperson from a competitor. Someone who excels on tele-sales, and golfing apparently. We will see about that.
With the travel restrictions, we were able to shift spending from trade shows to online marketing initiatives. Other than that, we did not do much else differently. I suppose we are all doing video calls for remote meetings more than we did before.
This may sound counterintuitive, but I personally have now started to get on airplanes and increase my direct sales travel to see customers who are not in lockdown. I believe that in these times, that kind of effort resonates with prospects even more. My comfort level in planes and hotels is strong, and I feel I can mitigate risk by being extremely careful. At first, I was trepidatious to do this but since my first travel experience was excellent, I saw that things are cleaner, less crowded, and much more efficient than ever before. With so few people out and about I am able to social distance and I am hoping to continue with regular sales runs so long as government regulations permit it.
How did you prioritize your employees?
Our departments work well in focused teams and there is a lot of peer engagement. I would check in with staff to make sure there were no outliers who might be feeling isolated for any reason. I also would check in with staff occasionally to discuss their well being.
Employees were given shorter term goals that were acknowledged in personal ways when achieved. This helps send a supportive message to both the staff member and their families.
I try to send regular messages updating the staff on the state of the organization in an effort to keep work related anxiety to a minimum.
We started more office pools. The first was the US election results. Still waiting on that to be official. There are lots of things we can go after including sports, foreign exchange rates, and perhaps group wellness goals.
What will you do now to prepare for possible future pandemic difficulties?
We are renovating areas of our building to enable staff to have the option to get out of their homes and work in a safe environment. After my experience of travelling and quarantining for two weeks, I think it is healthy for people to have the option to get a break from being in the same place all the time.
We also converted our basement meeting room into a gym, but only for the staff who are able to be happy with dumbbells that are 50lbs or less.
We also migrated our relatively new phone system to leverage the phone capabilities within Microsoft Teams. Staff satisfaction with Teams is very high and the Teams phone functionality means staff will stop giving out their personal cell phone numbers which they were doing because no one liked our IP phone system. The Teams mobile app includes full phone functionality meaning their connection to the business has never been higher and is in a great position for the future.
Our management team assesses risk every two weeks. Clients, staff, technical, etc. We are treating the business like an investment in a portfolio and rebalancing as the need arises which we will continue to do moving forward.
What advice do you have for other small business owners?
The leader definitely needs to be healthy. It is certainly beneficial to stick to a sleep, exercise, and nutrition routine that supports immunity, so you are an example to the rest of the organization.
It is easy to let work takeover, so taking breaks and limiting the amount of stressful news I found makes a difference with your ability to have a positive disposition.
As an owner, decluttering your life is a good strategy. You need space in your mind for whatever might come up.
From a planning perspective, we have different budget scenarios, so we are prepared for different economic scenarios. There is plenty of risk to be ready for and feeling prepared helps reduce anxiety and stress, which frees you up to help others.
Regular transparent communication to staff is very important as well as making yourself available to anyone who reaches out. The advice I have is regulate how much you take on so you can be there for those who need you.