Rise to the moment

How you act in a crisis defines who you are to others

Several months have passed since the COVID-19 pandemic threw lives into disarray across the globe. The combination of a health care tragedy and the resulting economic crisis challenges us all to adapt.

I am fortunate to work in a field that allowed for a relatively smooth transition to working from home, supported by great technology and now-ubiquitous tools like Zoom. Nonetheless, it has been a big change. My team in particular at Riverside spends much of our time on the road, visiting small businesses and building relationships. Previously, this meant meeting people face to face to build trust and explain Riverside’s unique expertise and experience in helping management teams take their companies to the next level. Ultimately, these connections become friendships and result in investment opportunities.

All those in-person meetings and direct, warm, personal interactions are clearly not practical under the current guidelines. However, it remains important to reach out and make sincere offers of assistance to people you know — whether it’s something as simple as a heartfelt conversation, collaborating on a business project or some other form of help. This is an incredibly difficult time, and we should all find ways to offer help however we are able to do so.

Open for business

Obviously, the pandemic has changed many business and personal needs while causing massive macroeconomic shocks, but most businesses are still operating and, in many cases, their customers continue to need products and services. Connecting with customers and reminding them that you are there for them is simple, effective and helpful, as many assume that you are not currently functioning. I was surprised by how many people contacted me to thank me for thinking of their needs at this time.

Communication is key

Empathetic communication with customers and prospects is important, but it’s just as important to constantly communicate with your employees. Many small businesses have had to cut staff due to reduced demand, while others have found various ways to retain their teams. Still others are holding steady due to being in an essential industry or quickly pivoting to meet a pressing need like manufacturing personal protective equipment or providing other vital services.

Whatever your company’s position, let employees know where you stand, share near-term and long-term goals and strategies, and explain what everything means to them. Increased communication and candor can help ease anxiety, as the unknown can be terribly distressing.

Frequency of communication is more important than ever with many of us working remotely. Riverside’s co-CEOs now address the firm via videoconference no less than twice a week.

Lasting memories

Like everyone else, we are eager for the return of “normal” or a reasonable facsimile of it — as soon as it is safely appropriate. Until that day comes, remember that how we act in times of crisis often defines us as individuals, leaders and companies. Even as we undergo personal stress and are challenged in ways we never imagined, it’s crucial to retain our humanity, empathy and core values.

We wish you, your loved ones and your companies health and success.

Jeremy Holland is managing partner, origination at The Riverside Co.