As we navigate through uncharted territory with the coronavirus outbreak impacting every aspect of our personal and professional lives, we find ourselves having to re-evaluate even our most routine tasks and activities in a new way.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve connected with customers, business partners, industry experts and teammates.
The underlying sentiment for all can be captured in the words of a CFO of a leading real estate lending firm, who said: “As you can imagine, we are dealing with a number of issues that require my undivided attention.
“We are operating remotely, except for a skeleton crew on site, and working with our customers and banks to ensure we can continue to operate as close to normal as possible.”
So, how do we move on from here?
Here are a few lessons from successful finance leaders at financial services firms who, at one point or another, have experienced a major business setback – and the measures they took to move forward productively.
1. Support your team by providing structure and direction
Being a leader isn’t easy, especially during a challenging situation. Yet, finance leaders around the world are being asked to manage remote teams – which may be a new reality for you. You may be thinking:
- How can I keep my team engaged and communication lines open when we are not meeting in person?
- How do I keep morale and productivity high?
- How can I emotionally support my team and ease their fears during uncertain times?
First and foremost, be human.
Recognise that you are dealing with people under a lot of personal and professional stress. It’s critical to be authentic and empathetic with your team, as well as with your customers and prospects.
With an understanding mindset, provide structure, direction and support to your people.
It’s OK to over-communicate with your team – especially in the beginning – to set expectations (such as how your team will share information, manage projects and deadlines, and make decisions) and give everyone the space to express concerns and concerns they may have.
Try introducing a daily check-in – this could be a simple 15 to 20-minute meeting that occurs at the same time each day – where you and your teammates answer three questions:
- What did I accomplish yesterday?
- What will I do today?
- What obstacles, if any, will hold me back from progressing?
Use regular one-on-one meetings to stay in contact with your team.
This will allow you to spend a bit more time with each person and ask questions such as: “What is and isn’t working? How can I support you? How can I help you be successful?”
2. Be productive from anywhere and at anytime
For employees who are required to work from home, help to ensure they are equipped to be productive.
Depending on their role, they may need access to a laptop or desktop computer, a comfortable keyboard, a camera for video conferencing, a mobile phone, and cybersecurity software to protect their (and the company’s) information.
A good backup solution is key, too, in case of a power outage or hardware issue.
To keep your team engaged and collaboration levels high, try and have embrace the webcam.
While conference calls can be tricky due to time delays, not knowing who is talking because you can’t see the person, and people getting interrupted unintentionally, video calls allow participants to see who they are talking to – increasing overall focus and interaction.
To stay on track with your business, opt to leverage the cloud to get direct, anytime access to key documents and systems, including your financial management hub – via a single set of resources, application infrastructure, and database.
This will give you the flexibility to deliver value, availability, security, and support to your customers when they need it most.
If your business isn’t in the cloud, make sure your important documents are easily accessible to enable access for key stakeholders, no matter where they are.
Assign the appropriate access rights to help ensure the correct people can view it, while valuable information doesn’t get lost or accidentally deleted.
Make sure to clarify roles and responsibilities in this new environment.
Think about who needs to be involved in key decision-making and in what capacity. Consider who determines when an event necessitates moving from continuity plans to crisis.
By tackling these details beforehand, you’ll establish clear accountability from the outset. This will help you and your team to keep moving forward productively.
3. Stay on top of your planning needs
With the impact of coronavirus changing on a daily (and even hourly) basis, affecting revenue and profits, your firm will need to regularly amend your plans for a variety of scenarios.
For example, where does it make sense to curtail or stop spending?
Are there investments that should be made in the next few days, or weeks, to ensure your business recovers faster when the coronavirus outbreak ends – which could be months from now?
If you’re working in spreadsheets, you’ll want to be careful about maintaining confidentiality and using ‘final’ versions.
If you’re lucky enough to have a financial planning and analysis tool in place to help you react in real time, uncover trends and deliver insights quickly, the process is likely to go smoother.
Time is your most precious asset.
Use it to gain alignment, and create transparency and accountability within your finance team and other key stakeholders to effectively make important decisions.
4. Ensure financial transparency and insight
The unprecedented scale and impact of coronavirus likely means you’ll need to adjust many of your financial reports and dashboards to get a complete picture of your business and help you to make smarter decisions faster.
Having financial transparency allows you to keep an eye on key trends that matter most to your business.
That’s the case no matter whether you’re managing balance sheets and income statements, monitoring fund performance, keeping tabs on your assets under management, internal rate of return (IRR), or reviewing cash-on-cash data.
And finally, make big decisions based on data and not just your intuition.
By working closely with your team and communicating regularly with them, you’ll help everyone to stay on the same page as you push to keep you business moving in the right direction.
Making sure your team has the right equipment in place when working remotely will allow everyone to stay on top of your company’s priorities and key tasks.
Dealing with fast-moving situations such as coronavirus means business continuity planning should be one of your key focuses. Have a plan in place and keep reviewing it as things change.
And stay on top of your financial reports and data so you can make the right decisions for your business.