Being a business owner can be a constant wave of challenges and crises, but no one could have prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of businesses have been impacted by the pandemic, and it hasn’t discriminated against the big or small fish – with many companies having to make staff redundant, cuts, and with some having to close. In this article, we interview Pete-Reis Campbell, CEO and Founder of Kaizen a small marketing agency based in London, and how he’s managed to stay productive during the lockdown period but also stay on top of leadership.
How has remote working and the pandemic affected your overall productivity as a business owner?
Unfortunately, my productivity is driven by anxiety and emotions and I am sure many business owners will understand the constant looming presence of anxiousness over decisions that they need to make. Nobody could have predicted a global pandemic was to occur, and so I didn’t have a specific plan of action for the company outside of usual contingency or rainy day funds – which meant I had to come up with one very quickly. At the time, around 30% of our clients were based in the travel industry, which has been hugely affected, meaning we could potentially lose hundreds of thousands of pounds, and potentially lose the business.
I created a checklist of all the things we would have to change or consider when our team was remote working, following up any debtors to ensure we could account for any financial losses and also communicating to clients that if they needed support we could provide them with it. Once this was put into place, I felt reassured that we could keep the business going effectively and with the help of advisors and government initiatives, we’ve actually been able to remain stable during the lockdown period. By keeping on top of potential hurdles coming our way, this helped with my own productivity but also helped the team, as in a leadership role, you want to lead by example.
What did you find most challenging during this time?
Like many people, I work well under pressure, but this was incredibly different from the situations I had previously dealt with as a business owner. There was an incredible amount of stress on how to steer the company forward, how we could afford to keep the office lights on and keep staff reassured that their jobs were safe. Overall, my productivity did fluctuate – as not only from a business standpoint but also personally, the pandemic was affecting my day-to-day life of not being able to enjoy simple luxuries we had taken for granted before. This period allowed me to reflect on the direction of the business, but also what activities and issues needed to be resolved before we could return to some form of ‘normality’.
Have you noticed a difference in how this has affected your workforce’s productivity and what measures have you put into place to help this?
At first, I was apprehensive about remote working, as there is a loss of social interaction and also how could we ensure that staff members were actually being productive and efficient during working hours. I realised that for this to work, trusting my team trumped everything. Many businesses have invested in timesheets, time-tracking, and screen monitoring software to ensure people are actually working, however, personally I felt this was excessive and would show a lack of faith in our employees. We suggested that our team needed to organise weekly calls and teams needed to put in processes that helped people to manage their workflow.
As a business owner, I felt it was imperative that we regularly communicated with staff to find out if they needed any support but also if they genuinely were okay. After implementing these changes, I noticed that the team put 100% into everything and we actually saw an uplift in the results we were delivering for a number of client campaigns.
Have you made any changes to the business after working remotely and dealing with the pandemic?
I have noticed that some people are more productive than others at home, and some even started thinking about their career direction and development. This led me to introduce a hybrid working policy – meaning staff can work from wherever they want. This has been a positive change, as we still have the office environment, meaning that collaboration and socialising aren’t completely lost. I’ve figured that if you hire people you trust, you’ll always see a productive team – in fact – it’s actually very therapeutic to see people working hard to keep the business afloat.
Ultimately, productivity has increased during the last few months and a part of it is encouraging a stable work/life balance. My team now has the autonomy and independence to control when they’d like to go into the office, where they’d like to work from, and how that affects their creative output.
What your 5 tips for being productive during this time as a business owner:
- Keep a routine – People are still working from home and this might not change until 2021 for many, so I think it’s incredibly important to instill a routine, just like you would as if you were commuting to the office. I always wake up, have a shower, get dressed, prepare a to-do list and structure my day, as that helped my productivity massively whilst being faced with distractions that come with working at home.
- Be sure to stay on top of your cash flow – Small businesses know the importance of keeping on top of finances, so during this time ensure you’re keeping on top of clients or any debtors. You might want to communicate to them about support or how you can help them with payments, but in order to survive this downturn – you also need to know when your cash flow is coming in in order to plan and mitigate for the future.
- Communicate more with your staff and clients – With uncertainty around the economy and the stability of thousands of businesses and jobs, communication between your staff is essential. You’ll need to regularly update your staff on the direction of the business and assure people you’ve prepared for a rainy day. During the lockdown, we’ve seen our staff swiftly adapt and react to this situation. With communication and team management becoming important focus areas, we ensured our staff had the right support from tech and tools to wellbeing and mental health. It’s also important to remember whilst using Zoom, Slack, and other countless ways of communication, that we shouldn’t overwhelm people with constant updates or video calls, as they can be draining and stifle productivity. We’ve killed a few regular meetings recently for example.
- Create a weekly to-do list and break it out each day – This is integral to keeping on track, and by completing a weekly to-do list, you can easily organise your tasks into high and low priority areas. I usually do this on a Friday morning in preparation for the following week, and then each morning I create mini-lists to manage it day-by-day. There’s also something about ticking off something on a to-do list that is rewarding, so that can help with productivity and feelings about a project or decision.
- Take time out – As previously mentioned, with all these online resources, we can often find ourselves in a constant state of being online and overwhelmed with video calls and catch-ups. Use the mute button or block out a day in your calendar to enjoy some quiet time – being a business owner is hard and can be mentally taxing, so it’s important to create time for yourself.
Kaizen is a creative-focused performance marketing agency based in London that provides digital PR, social and search marketing services across the UK, EMEA, and the US. Other clients in Kaizen’s portfolio include Adidas, Lastminute.com, and TUI.