Must Do’s for 2021

Mark L. Johnson / January 2021

The pandemic may have run out of control, but you don’t have to. How can you remain in sync with good business practices and come out the victor?

Here are three ideas that I feel can help your business succeed this year.

Guard Your Company’s Cultural Values
Instilling and maintaining a sense of the company’s culture is a tall order for any construction company. Employees work on multiple job sites and with a diverse set of project partners. It’s hard to unify everybody. And, it’s even harder to do that during a pandemic.
    
“Everybody is in their little bubbles, and it’s hard to actually reinforce the shared values and goals of people within the company,” says Cynthia Wang, a clinical professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School at Northwestern University, as quoted in Kellogg Insight.
    
The pandemic has brought sudden and drastic change. It’s throwing everyone for a loop, and the danger is your company values could start to unravel. What can you do about it?
    
Double down on your efforts to give employees a sense of control. Have more frequent employee check-ins. Discuss employees’ concerns about safety. Find out how everyone is coping.
    
Informal connections build communication and trust. The latter is a key cultural value that you don’t want to leave to chance. Make trust the bedrock of your company culture, and you’ll work more efficiently, acquire skilled talent more easily and develop lots of innovative ideas.

Don’t Succumb to Exhaustion
What can you do to keep your energy levels up and a positive frame of mind? Something simple. Take a break.
    
Specifically, take a vacation each year. Get off the grid and do something refreshing. It’s early in the year, so plan now for a 10- to 14-day period of rest.
    
The McKinsey Quarterly recently interviewed Admiral John Richardson, former chief of naval operations, about pandemic exhaustion among business leaders, and he highly recommends taking time off to recover from possible overwork.
    
“Recovery is essential to mission effectiveness,” he says. “That must include both taking time off to re-energize and to have the team and structure in place so that this time off can be protected and the mission will continue.”
    
Why are breaks so important?
    
“Without these breaks, fatigue sets in, decisions deteriorate, inefficiency increases and performance drops,” Richardson says.
    
He adds: “You’re valuable as a leader, but you’re also vulnerable as a leader, and your team will suffer if you’re truly the only person who can make all the decisions.”
    
Yeah. Build a trustworthy team, and don’t make yourself indispensable. You can’t do it all alone anyway.

Favor Your People
Here’s a story from the restaurant industry, which shares something in common with construction: Both are service businesses.
    
Greg Flynn, the founder, CEO and chairman of Flynn Restaurant Group, owns and operates more than 1,200 restaurants under the Applebee’s, Panera Bread, Taco Bell and Arby’s brands. Early in the pandemic, Flynn and his team decided to keep their restaurants open. The company furloughed 29,000 people in five days—60% of its workforce, according to Insights, a publication of the Stanford Graduate School of Business. But no layoffs.
    
Within a few months, managers boosted sales at Applebee’s up to 60% of pre-COVID levels by focusing on takeout and outdoor dining. In time, the off-premises business got sales back to pre-COVID levels.
    
“In the end we closed fewer than 10 restaurants permanently, and at this point, we’ve brought back almost all of our people,” Flynn says. “Really, in a lot of ways, we’re coming out of this stronger.”
    
What’s the lesson, according to Flynn? The most important element of business is the strength of your team.
    
“I really think we made the right decision to stay open and furlough our employees, rather than having layoffs, even though it cost us in the short term,” Flynn says. “It showed that we valued them and wanted to bring them back.”
    
“And it’s not just that you care about people and don’t want them to lose their health insurance,” Flynn says. “It’s a hard-nosed business calculation: The key to success in this business is running your restaurants well, day in and day out.”
    
Ditto for construction.

Mark L. Johnson writes for the wall and ceiling industry. He can be reached via linkedin.com/in/markjohnsoncommunications.