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Judy Williams

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Keeping a “People-First” Mindset During COVID-19

Keeping a “People-First” Mindset During COVID-19

As we continue to face the daily realities of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we are painfully reminded that life is such a precious commodity and that we have a responsibility not only to ourselves, but to those around us.

For those leading businesses through this challenging time, the duty we have to all our employees is undoubtedly the most important one we shoulder. In my role as BSM President, I am responsible for all our people and daily operations. While much of our normal business — like that of most of our clients in ophthalmology practices, medical aesthetic businesses, and ambulatory surgery centers — is still evolving, our wonderful BSM employees are actively supporting our customers and finding new and different ways to add value. This amid finding ways to juggle their own unique challenges (e.g., working remotely, homeschooling, watching children, and taking care of other family needs). It is in this new normal that I keep my focus firmly on our people, with it remaining my highest priority now more than ever.

Like many small businesses, we have needed to take swift and decisive action to ensure that our small company can and will stay viable once we emerge from this period of crisis. Guiding our actions were considerations to preserve our cash flow, and for a company based on family values, making employee layoff and furlough decisions were heartbreakingly necessary. Though it may seem incongruent to declare a people-first philosophy when the outcome for some has been so devastating, I have to remind myself (and our team) on a daily basis that maintaining the ongoing security of our business is the only way we can truly take care of our people for the medium- to long-term.

As I begin to reflect on the whirlwind of COVID, I offer the following insights from my own experience in the hope that they might be helpful to others facing similar tough decisions and who may be wondering where to start.

  • Maintain objectivity. By focusing on the needs of the business now, making honest appraisals of current workload (i.e., must-dos vs. nice-to-dos), and looking forward, we were able to map out the resources we anticipated being critical over the coming weeks. Faced with tough decisions, the logic and consistency that quickly emerged from this exercise was reassuring.
  • Seek input. The early involvement of other operational leadership team members was essential to the decision-making process. Spending time with each leader individually and then opening up discussions to the rest of the group ensured a whole-organizational perspective was considered. While we worked quickly and efficiently, often after hours and over weekends, NOT ONE of our difficult personnel decisions was made without several rounds of objective discussion.
  • Communicate calmly, clearly, and with compassion. If making these tough decisions was not hard enough, preparing to communicate them was even harder. Yet knowing our plans were grounded in logic and objectivity allowed us to move forward. As I began to prepare myself and others for the individual conversations ahead, I leaned on some of my prior experiences and human resources (HR) schooling from the corporate world. To project a sense of calm and conduct ourselves in the beloved BSM Way — particularly in these unprecedented times — we did the following:
    • Developed talking points, printed them out, and had them by our side as we communicated this tough news to team members;
    • Had reminders for ourselves to focus on the personal impact we knew this would have on each and every person; and
    • Reiterated over and over again our deep care and concern for each employee during these conversations.

Like many of you reading this, we at BSM are finding our new normal; doing our very best to balance our focus on the present while thinking about the life and business that is emerging from this intense period of crisis. Nothing is more important at this time than our people — family, friends, and every single member of our team — who play a vital role in our personal and professional recovery. With that, I urge you to stay safe and well for yourselves and those who depend on you.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCE: View our on-demand webinar Connecting with Your People to foster employee engagement as your business begins to emerge from the pandemic. 


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