Wayne Zwiers is the CEO and founder of Basalt Technology, an award-winning company that solves complex business problems through the rapid implementation of profitable, disruptive technology solutions. Wayne has garnered several industry accolades, including the Africa Tech CEO of the Year Award. Wayne offers some insights on business resilience in times of crises, as well as his top tips for business owners.
“When faced with any kind of crisis, it is human nature to start going through your checklist to see what needs to be done. Most often, people go into panic mode, with little focus and direction. Yet remaining calm and collected should be the first priority when a crisis knocks at the door. With the coronavirus pandemic now forcing people to remain indoors, with almost unprecedented restrictions on personal freedoms, staying calm and developing resilience has never been this important to collective health and wellbeing. This goes for businesses, too.
Less is more
As most high performers in business know and understand, a lot of detailed planning needs to take place at different stages of the life cycle of a business. Risk mitigation and crisis planning is essential here, to ensure that the business is adaptable enough to allow for different crises to be addressed. In this phase, there are companies that make the necessary structural, strategic, and operating decisions that improve their ability to perform in the face of volatility and uncertainty. This is something that all businesses can achieve, as long as they have a contingency plan – and a strong, focused leadership team.
The leadership team needs to be prepared, and should include well-equipped individuals to whom the rest of the organisation looks to for detailed guidance and information. This team understands that their ability to be able to take the necessary measures to regroup and reset the various elements of the business will help the business adjust to a ‘new normal’… and also ensure that the rest of the team can operate confidently and calmly.
Think beyond the crisis
When external events are as dramatic as the coronavirus pandemic, people tend to go into ‘over control’ mode.
This is when leaders need to be the primary source of information and guidance, ensuring that the company as a whole is focused on implementing solutions to the challenge in order to see everyone safely through the national crisis.
Another important part of riding the wave that cannot be ignored is being able to plan ahead – and look beyond the current state of affairs. As leaders, we need to look to planning for the world of work, post-crisis. So, what do we need to prepare for, and how do we prepare the business, staff and clients in order to ensure that once we move into a new normal, it is a seamless transition for us all? It is critical to think ahead in this way,” concludes Zwiers.
Wayne’s 5 leadership tips for business owners:
- Be an authentic leader
Authenticity is defined as living with conviction, transparency and purpose. This purpose manifests itself as passion in leaders who are aware of their strengths, alongside their own emotions. Authentic leaders know when to make hard decisions and to stand by the results of these decisions. They continue to work on themselves at the same time as mentoring their team.
- Respect your team and recognise them
Having respect for each member of your team is key. Understand that employees are individuals, each with their own different backgrounds, frames of reference and personal lives. Every individual wants to be recognised and appreciated for the work that they do. It is fulfilling to have one’s personal circumstances taken into account and this builds employee trust. Finding innovative ways for your team to connect and destress can provide great results in that employees feel both recognised and valued. Something simple, such as providing company yoga classes as we do at Basalt can yield such great results.
- Have no-agenda team meetings
No agenda meetings provide a great opportunity for open discussion which fosters creativity and promotes collaboration. As a leader, you are able to set the tone for open discussion by sharing your vulnerabilities or challenges. For instance, an employee may indicate in a no agenda meeting that they need emotional help and more readily ask for advice with a personal scenario, or another employee might repeatedly raise concerns about specific tasks, indicating areas where more training is needed. Enable team members to deliver results and empathize with them if they are battling with something.
- Don’t typecast your employees
At Basalt, we have created an ecosystem that is modular and set up to scale. We work in pods of up to seven people, whereby a leader is allocated who has certain KPIs to meet. Our teams spend 80% of their time on clients, and 20% of their time on the business itself. The latter can include categories such as mastery, incentives, business development and innovation. Essentially, employees select what they want to work on, which naturally leads to higher engagement and better results. Often, it is junior employees who step up to the plate and volunteer to be a team leader. They flourish in this role, as they are given the opportunity to learn, and they are highly incentivised and motivated from the start because they have volunteered themselves.
- Adversity breeds resilience
When you are in the eye of the storm, you are growing stronger. You will never learn as much as when the pressure is on. Embrace the knowledge that you will be a stronger leader for getting through it. The season of adversity will pass but your business resilience and capacity to adapt will blossom. We persevere in order to succeed. Adversity pushes us to grow as human beings and this growth translates as improvement. Business, as in life, is ultimately a series of trials and tribulations, but it is our attitude in tough times that will determine our success.