WFH 02: Embracing Transparency and Open Employee Communication

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David Lloyd

Editor’s NOTE: this is part two of our CONTENT SERIES ENTITLED WINNING FROM HOME (WFH)IT’S FOR B2B MARKETERS and leaders with one simple PURPOSe: JUST BECAUSE EVERYONE IS REMOTE AND WE’RE ALL GOING THROUGH OUR OWN CHALLENGES, IT DOESN’T MEAN WE CAN’T FIND WAYS TO THRIVE TOGETHER. article #2 is written by our fearless leader and CEO, David Lloyd.

As someone who has been through the Internet Bubble, 9/11, SARS, H1-N1, the financial crisis of 2008-09 and now the impact of COVID-19, needless to say, I’ve seen a lot.

Despite the best of planning possible, the playbook hasn’t been written for this particular scenario. The one consistent approach that has worked well is communication that drives transparency with employees in the company.

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced both economic and psychological upheaval. The situation is so fluid that changes required by individuals, companies and governments are occurring on an hourly basis.

How do you provide your team with a foundation of support that allows each employee and your organization to gain a level of confidence for what might be coming next, so that every decision made is not purely reactionary? I will walk through at a high level what we are doing as a team at PostBeyond to try and establish a level of “normal” internally while ensuring each employee understands the next steps and its impact.

Being Transparent With Employees

Perhaps having been through different impactful shifts over the last couple of decades has provided a basis for what we did first.

As the situation progressed in February, we began contingency planning. Fortunately, we already had a business continuity plan in place. This planning involved a tough set of analyses to forecast what would happen to the company. For example, if sales dried up since many companies tighten their short term spend or if customers didn’t renew.

It’s a stark reality to look into the bank account and assess (both personally and business-wise) what you have to live on. We took the time to communicate to the entire team. This allowed us to walk through the current state of the business, prepare everyone for mandatory work-from-home, and most importantly let the entire team know what the next steps in planning were. These happened in frequent emails and company stand-ups establishing the date of the next communication to set expectations.

Communicating The Plan and How We Got Here

As a company, one of our core values is “We Act As Owners”. To us, that means everyone at least quarterly is aware of our company’s current position including burn rate, MRR, sales success, renewals, and other key metrics.

Fear is typically caused by a lack of communication and transparency. We laid it out as it was. Working closely with different leaders at first and our CFO, we proactively looked at the “best” and “worst” case plans from our end of year planning in 2019. Using the worst-case baseline we then developed three scenarios (a fourth one emerged that was a hybrid we went with) that included re-casting sales and renewals (we imagined a 40% decrease in sales and renewals of only 50% against the worst case).

We used this baseline to develop the cash projection needs, then looked at the required expense cuts, salary cuts, potential layoffs and other approaches to “survive to thrive”.

Socializing The Plan With Employees and Board Members

Next, we socialized the plan with our board members and most importantly we walked the entire company through not only the selected scenario to work against but all the other scenarios. For many of our team, this was an opportunity to learn how to work through these very tough times and provide insight into the decision making process. Importantly, it also demonstrated that we looked at and considered difficult options. We had an all-hands town hall during which time we walked briefly through each scenario and then the one we determined made the most sense.

Now, we are operating under the majority of that plan. This allowed us to maintain the team without layoffs while reducing budgets where it made sense. One key lesson I have learned is that a culture built on strong, transparent communications can accelerate during the toughest times. It’s a tough way to look at it but the reality of surviving to thrive in uncertain times. By being transparent with our team, we helped them focus on winning instead of being distracted by external factors.

In general, our communications approach is:

  • Leadership team meetings occur 3x per week: 2x as a quick stand-up via Zoom and 1x focused on key activities which last longer.
  • 1-on-1 leader meetings weekly.
  • Sales meetings occur 3x per week: 2x quick stand-up and 1x focused on longer-term planning, education and problem-solving.
  • Weekly all-hands stand-up.
  • Daily update emails (for about 2 weeks) moving to 1-2 emails weekly to everyone about new sales, renewals and other activities.
  • Monthly AMA (Ask Me Anything) meetings where the team is open to asking any questions.

We Are In This Together

Transparency comes from open communications and you need to gauge frequency as you progress. We also reached out to customers to see how we could support them and were dependent on the platform to engage with employees and cutomers. That’s another blog for later.

We are truly in this together and can do incredible things when we have the fullest of information possible. I find that it’s far easier to face fears when you can work to define them. While I try to focus on what I can control, knowing all the variables and planning is critical to my mental state. Preparedness is my leadership approach.

Stay healthy and safe.

Our Winning from Home series provides actionable insights and resources to help B2B marketers and leaders thrive during unprecedented times. Check out other relevant articles:

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