“I think we’re still going to do it – but remotely for the time being. Video conference everyone, and encourage their families to be on the call,” he says. It’s a new reality as the globe copes with a pandemic the likes of which the world hasn’t seen since 1918.
Integration firms everywhere have come to understand that in addition to the financial and safety challenges they’re suddenly facing, maintaining morale is critical, too -- and video conferencing is a huge help. Pete Trauth of the LA firm Nirvana Home Entertainment
is a believer: “The conference call encourages unity and camaraderie among team members, and the video aspect is key. When everyone is separated, you lose that personal connection. You may have a few people who are resistant at first – not everyone likes to see themselves on camera – but the ultimate benefits of video conferencing are tremendous on a personal level.
“Body language, gestures, facial expressions: Each of these things make up our unique characters in a conversation. Voice does this too, but voice is only one small element in a bigger picture,” says Trauth. “And Sergio’s notion of bringing families in is great. It really shows he cares about his employee’s loved ones.” It’s part of a formula that includes transparency from management and clear communications as to where the business is headed.
Mike Ranpura (Smart Life AV, London
) had already committed to a daily meetup before the virus hit. “Now with everyone’s daily lives upended, it’s important that I continue these via videoconferencing,” he says. “The routine’s important, and I can check in with my team and we can all update each other.”
"If you bring some positive news to the table right out of the gate, it sets a much better tone for the meeting.” -Pete Trauth, Nirvana Home Entertainment
Marilyn Sanford (now of the Canadian labor-sharing firm LincEdge
), who’s run multiple integration firms in the past, says, “One thing that changed my first company was the daily huddle. It was hard for some of my people – the technicians were a bit resistant, as they wanted to go out and get cracking – but our culture warmed to it. And once that happened, the results were brilliant.” Sanford notes that the free-flowing exchange of ideas, strategies, and solutions that can come out of these sessions are best fostered when the huddle opens with positive vibes.
Trauth agrees: “When we first started the work-from-home routine our regular meetings opened with ‘What’s the breaking news?’ and that can be negative. If you bring some positive news to the table right out of the gate, it sets a much better tone for the meeting.”
“And when you’ve got to start every meeting with the positive stuff, that puts pressure on you as leader,” notes Sanford. “It really teaches you how to bring the goods.”
Trauth knows that remote workers have constant distractions in situations like this (especially when kids and life partners are home with employees), so these check-ins help keep the team on track. “You’ve got to keep your people engaged during times of turbulent customer demand.”
Sanford is keenly aware of this, and she adds: “I’m sure everyone is looking to adjust or modify their business model to roll with the punches, maybe shifting focus to more network and security solutions. Just imagine how your employees feel: They have a basket of worries from the pandemic, and now you’re trying to readjust your business while they’re nervous or upset.”
Trauth has ideas for stress-relief: “Virtual yoga and exercise studios are popping up everywhere. And I can’t understate that it’s important to have a little fun. Teleconference a happy hour with your people? It’s great.” Trauth notes that these suggestions were shared with him by Juliet Prater, owner of Modern Life Technical Solutions in Marina Del Rey.
And while it may not fit into every corporate culture, folks like Trauth, Gaitan, Sanford, and Ranpura agree on this: Pets invading the video shot are not an annoyance.“I love to see everyone’s dogs and cats,” Trauth says with a chuckle.