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Layoffs, furloughs and more: weathering the COVID storm in Northern Nevada

Jacob Warwick
Courtesy photo

RENO, Nev. — Some call this group the “go-forward team.”

They are the people still employed at a company following multiple rounds of layoffs. These people are left demoralized, sunken-shouldered and constantly looking over their shoulder, anxious about another round of layoffs hitting them.

This is why Jacob Warwick, CEO of Reno-based Discover Podium, says that small businesses that have to lay off staff amid the coronavirus pandemic should try to only do it once. 

“The typical mentality behind that is you have to cut pretty deep the first time and try not to cut again,” said Warwick, whose company helps clients find more fulfilling work, primarily in technology and management consulting verticals. “If you have to keep doing (layoffs), it continually ruins the morale and the go-forward team is unable to move forward. The team that’s still at the company has to deal with that emotional trauma of people leaving again. And then they almost feel a little bit betrayed by the organization.”

It was one of the many tips Warwick offered during a Reno-Tahoe American Marketing Association (AMA) webinar in early May that focused on weathering a pandemic for small businesses and startups.

Discussing short-term strategies, Warwick said maintaining clear communication with not only employees, but also customers (current and prospective) is especially important. After all, with clients canceling contracts or challenging payments due to the crisis, small businesses need to be open to negotiation, he said.

“Assume that nothing is a given — even contracts,” said Warwick, who suggested discussing payment plans or temporary pausing services with clients. “With each of your customers, be compassionate, understand what they’re going through, ask them, ‘what would work best for you?’ or ‘what would make this worthwhile for you?’ or ‘how can we better assist you?’”

‘A LOT OF STRESS AND PRESSURE’

Along with maintaining relationships with customers, Warwick also covered how businesses should approach seeking new customers. This came after the Discover Podium CEO was asked if businesses should slow down sales calls during this uncertain time.

“I don’t think there are a lot of companies out there that are in a position to slow their sales down at all,” he said. “If anything, there’s a lot of stress and pressure put on sales teams all over the country.”

With that in mind, Warwick advises that companies continue to sell, but do so with compassion and integrity, adding: “Any sense of urgency that you place on a buyer is really not fair.”

Truth is, during a pandemic, many companies may feel desperate to manipulate their sales strategy and pitch for their services, which could lead a business to oversell and under-deliver, he said.

“While your temporary financial gain may help you today, it’s going to cause a lot of problems downhill,” he added.

For nonprofits that rely heavily on donations, Warwick said the pandemic is an opportunity for organizations to share their vision and story as they continue to seek contributions. In other words, he said, nonprofits should remind people of why they are asking for money in the first place and what it goes to.

In addition, he suggests nonprofits open a dialogue with their donors and be flexible with them, such as rolling out subscription models for donations. 

THE NEW NORMAL

With a majority of the people that are still employed now working from home, Warwick also gave out tips for companies that are new to running a business remotely.

Often, he said, companies operate on the extreme ends of the spectrum.

“What tends to happen, is a company will either completely forget that their employees are remote and let them do their own thing and see what happens,” he said. “Or, they’ll do the exact opposite, which is micromanage the s–t out of them and make sure they’re doing something every waking moment of the day, and not taking care of their dogs or their kids or what other external factors are happening at home.”

Striking a balance between those two is key, he added.

Warwick even suggested that companies host video-conference happy hours or trivia nights for employees — one thing he said Discover Podium has started — in an effort to “build some of that connectivity back.”

And as the economy starts to open back up, Warwick said he thinks “it’s OK” for companies to trickle people back into physical locations.

“If you’ve figured out how to adapt remotely and work has been affected minimally, I would likely communicate with my team and understand the best time they feel comfortable coming back,” he said. “Not that on the day the governor says ‘come back to work,’ you have to go back to work.”