Times, they are a-changin’. With the novel coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) still affecting our lives, there is still a need to continue to adapt as new norms for home and work life develop. Now that the dust has settled a bit from the colossal shift to working from home, it’s time to take a look at what we’ve learned and find out where it’s important to refine the process. After all, we as a nation made a lightning-quick pivot to stay safe and stay open.
Just a short time ago, this current mode of working from home felt new and perhaps frustrating. Now, it appears to be a new normal for construction and coatings companies. This means that refining the work-from-home process is the next step to thriving successfully.
What We Did Well
Transitioning to be more dependent on technology was something new for a lot of coatings professionals. Getting the tools into the hands of employees and setting up shop from home may have felt like a scramble, but you’re still here! You have succeeded in turning on a dime not only to stay open but also to continue serving customers in a safe manner. Even as you were setting up a home office and juggling work time with kid(s)-at-home time, you also revised your marketing and how you interacted with clients. Way to go, you!
The next step is to figure out how to continue to improve upon these successes. Two things come to mind when we talk with our clients. First is the importance of communication. It is invaluable to be intentional about staying connected with your team when location no longer helps form that connection. The second area to improve upon is how you run your business from home. Now that you have worked out the kinks of your whole family being home with you, it’s time to refine the process of how you run your business to make the best use of your time. Let’s talk about this first.
Running Your Business
As a business owner in the building materials and coatings industry, you have a lot to keep tabs on. How you run your business has probably changed a lot over the past few months. Four things we recommend to fine tune the logistical strategies include:
1. Use dual monitors: Having multiple screens to use can help your workflow stay more organized. We like to have a minimum of two screens to manage everything: One for working on (things we are only using for a certain task go here and are closed once the task is completed), and the second screen is where communication happens (e.g., chats, email, video, and anything we use often throughout the day). Sometimes you may even benefit from having three screens!
2. Track workflow: As a business owner, it’s great being able to see what your employees are doing (or not doing). Using a tracking software such as ActivTrak allows you to “gain insights into remote employee work patterns and time management.” Over time, the data and analytics can help you streamline your operations and optimize business tools.
3. Set up a phone system: Expecting your clients to leave messages and wait for someone to get back to them will start to sour their experience with your company. There are several options to set up a phone routing system so callers can reach who they need in one phone call. Services such as RingCentral will help you route calls without giving away private phone numbers. For maximum flexibility, look for something that can be added to a phone or used from a computer. This will make your team’s job easier and also give your clients better customer service.
4. Document jobs: Having a customer relationship management (CRM) connected to your website forms may seem basic to some coatings pros, but you’d be surprised how many don’t have this set up. A CRM helps you gather leads and document your jobs. Need help choosing the best CRM software? We’ve put together a handy CRM Comparison Table that you can find at artunlimitedusa.com/choosing-crm-software.
One thing to remember: This all starts with you. Set clear objectives for your team, if you aren’t already. Define what great results look like; as some of your team members may primarily work from home now, the hours they work cannot always be the best measurement. Have those conversations and document your expectations.
Communications Within the Team
Communication is a soft skill worth investing in. As we’ve said before, communication is more than speaking. Now more than ever before, we must be cognizant of how we communicate. It’s how you connect with others — both on your team and with who you are serving — and is required in any interaction with others.
Here are four ways to keep your team connected virtually:
1. Short-form communication: Offer an easy way for your team — from customer service to application crews — to quickly check in or talk with each other about important tasks. Have an app such as Google Hangouts, Viber, Slack, or Whatsapp enabled and always visible to keep up on what is happening with everyone. This will help if issues arise in the field or if someone has a funny joke to share. We use Google Hangouts and have different chat threads open for a variety of purposes. They’re a virtual version of the water cooler, specific teams, and hotline when speedy communication is needed.
2. Designated communication times: Having a weekly or daily ritual of meeting over Zoom (or your preferred video conferencing app) is a great way to share what is coming up for the day or week and to find out what others need help with.
3. Private group connections: Start a private Facebook group for your company to help your team stay connected. Host a group Zoom “happy hour” to get your team together to have some fun (some ideas: Marvelous Monday, Thirsty Thursday, Wacky Wednesday).
4. Weekly update email: Not all things have to be said in a meeting. There are some newsworthy reminders best left to a weekly email, such as what is new for the week, what to be on the lookout for, and what fun things are coming up (e.g., birthdays or work anniversaries).
Remember: Communication should not be all work and no play. You need to find and set the balance so your team feels heard, included, and helped. This also includes the conversational tone you use and when to use each solution. Gain an understanding of when chatting or email can suffice or when talking words are best. For example, anything relating to HR should be kept off chats; keep that to email or on the phone. One topic may be fine to instant message with one employee but could be offensive to another. Know your team and how they communicate!
The New “Normal”
As always, having a positive can-do attitude even during difficult times can make things feel better and more natural. Having strong communication with your team and clients keeps everyone on the same page. Working in separate locations means your whole team must be even more intentional in collaboration. Let go of expectations of what’s “normal” and find something new each day to be thankful for. We will get through this together, from 6 feet (1.8 m) away and through our computer screens.
About the Authors:
Kandi Hamble, content editor at Art Unlimited, loves improving her client’s online presence through thoughtfully crafted and individualized content.
Anna Chapman Anderson, CEO of Art Unlimited, speaks on national stages across the United States and works alongside business owners helping them obtain success. For more information, contact: Art Unlimited, www.artunlimitedusa.com