When it comes to overcoming business challenges, 2020 was the ultimate test. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Last year was brutal for an overwhelming number of businesses both in the United States as well as the rest of the world. So many businesses saw their doors close permanently as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing reduction in revenue.
And while not every business ended up having to close their doors, every business was impacted in some way. Even those that, from a revenue standpoint, did well in 2020, had a whole new landscape to navigate. Remote work, Zoom meetings, maybe a reduction in workforce. The pandemic took no prisoners, and nobody was unscathed.
But rather than focus on the negative, we’re going to take this episode and focus on the positive. We’re going to talk with someone who, though they had to make some tough decisions, helped lead her company through the rough waters of 2020, and hopefully has set them up for continued success in 2021.
Our guest on the show this week is Macy Macaskill. Macy is the Chief Financial Officer at Rockets of Awesome, and our conversation on this episode is all about struggle, perseverance, and triumph. Her company had some hard decisions to make at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they’ve rebounded from those decisions in a dramatic way.
Coming Through COVID Stronger Than Before
This last year has felt both endless and like a blip on the radar, all at once. Rockets of Awesome was poised to enter a fundraising round just as the pandemic set in here in the United States, throwing their entire strategy into a tailspin.
As a retail organization, they saw first-hand the effects of the pandemic. Luckily as a subscription-based online business, they did not face the prospect of closing hundreds or thousands of stores like many of their competitors.
They did choose to close their pop-up store in Manhattan and along with it, the epic marshmallow pit created just for the small humans that love and live in their clothes. Rockets of Awesome is focused on providing parents with new clothes for their growing children every season with designs and functionality that kids love.
Another change that the smaller company had to make due to COVID was a reduction in headcount. The leadership team had to make the decision that no leader ever wants to have to make, but it's how they did that really sets the company apart.
Rather than hide behind secrecy, they were honest and communicative about the changes required and the reasons behind them as soon as the decision was made. The leadership team committed not only to transparency but also to helping those employees who were let go find new jobs, which led to an increased level of trust with the team as well as strengthened relationships.
“I truly believe it's incredibly important to make the team feel valued as human beings and not just employees,” Macaskill said.
Maintaining Employee Morale While Working Remotely
What about their remaining workforce? What was most important to the company in terms of their employees was to maintain relationships and keep working well as a team during the pandemic. To achieve this, they were very intentional about making changes that would help promote self-care and a work-life balance, ensuring that their employees felt respected, taken care of, and appreciated for their work.
They started with a focus on mental health: enter Mental Health Fridays. The team instituted paid time off every other Friday for employees to recharge, reset, and reinvest in themselves and their families. They recognized that nobody is useful if they’re burned out on work, and giving every other Friday off is a small price to pay.
Second, they instituted what they call 'Deep Work Mornings'. Three mornings a week, there are extended periods of time where no meetings are allowed to be scheduled. None. No Zoom calls, no phone calls, nothing. It allows their employees to get their heads down, and get deep into their projects without having to disrupt that workflow.
And third, they started doing walking touch bases. Even if it’s over the phone, these outdoor meetings ensure that both parties are out walking during the call, and able to get a different perspective as well as some exercise. It may seem simple, but that time away from the screen and into the fresh air proves invaluable to team member's mental and physical health.
What Companies Can Do To Overcome Big Business Challenges
If you’re a company that is struggling to get through the pandemic, first off, know that you’re not alone. So many companies are struggling right now. But what decisions do you need to make? What comes first?
“I don’t know what the future holds, but I do think that shopping and lifestyle habits have permanently shifted as a result of the COVID pandemic,” Macaskill said.
Macaskill suggests to always have a 12-month view of the business. Every decision that you’re making ought to be being made with the 12-month state of the company at the front of your mind. To make sure that you take care of your team and do right by your vendors. You may have to make a decision today based on what things are going to look like in 12 months, and that can be uncomfortable, but wholly necessary.
While it may seem easier to look at things like travel and expenses, the areas to be paying attention to actually are marketing and headcount. Those are where you’re going to be saving the money that could mean the difference between staying open and closing up shop.
Listen to the whole episode to learn more about how to start overcoming business challenges.
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