What leading my business through COVID taught me about care, compassion and honest leadership

What leading my business through COVID taught me about care, compassion and honest leadership

I remember last March well. After enduring weeks of no sleep, along with panic and anxiety as to what was happening in the world, I decided it was time to buckle up. We, as a family business, had worked too hard to get to this point to panic and lose everything and more importantly, we had a team of employees and customers who really relied on us.

So, my home library became my war room and COVID-19 was the battle we had to win. I put pen to paper and made a few promises to myself to ensure I stayed on track because I knew what was ahead of me was going to be extremely difficult.

Below a snapshot from my Instagram March 20-20, the day I decided to focus and work our survival plan to ensure Total Image lived on:  

March 20- 20

When it Rains look for Rainbows, when it’s dark look for stars. Social distancing, closed borders, grounded planes, change, and curve balls being thrown our way each minute of every day. Started this week with a commitment to only watch ten minutes of news a day, meditate for ten minutes a day, stay focused on my business, any opportunities, efficiency, live in the moment and most importantly acknowledge that there is nothing I can do to change what is happening. Accept it, not drown in it and try my very best to focus, small steps, small wins. Scrapped our yearly plan. Moved to weekly, quarterly sprints and refocused readjusted with current times in mind.
And now for the weekend. News Free. Need to look after me to be the best leader I can.

I took a week to be kind to myself, meditate and really think about next steps.

Our revenue had been impacted and we had already come out of an extremely tough 2019. We were banking on growth in sales for 2020 and not a decline.

This calm deep dive into the business made me realise that we had to make some difficult changes to the team. We had to look at reducing our operating days. Not only had orders completely fallen off a cliff but doing so would counter the decline in sales and ensure we had revenue to see this through for the longer term.

I thought carefully about not rushing into a decision, but also not taking too long. I sat personally with each member of the team, 39 at the time, and advised them of the changes. I am pretty sure I cried each time I spoke to each member of my team.

The team was incredibly understanding and supportive and everyone was prepared to do whatever it took to ensure the survival of our business.   

March 27-20

To Plant a Seed is to believe in tomorrow #planning #contemplating #rethinking
Such sad and tough times for so many, for all the small business owners who this week lost everything they have worked so hard to build, to our customers in hospitality and retail, for all the employees who have lost jobs and for all the livelihoods now at stake my heart is broken.
Have spent this week rethinking the way we do business and planting seeds for our future and our teams future because I really do believe in tomorrow. This too will pass!

Something we have been very mindful about over the years is diversifying our business and the markets we service. As a uniform provider it is easy to focus on a particular industry because generally as you win one major client in that space the rest tend to follow.

We have actively pursued a strategy of diversification and this is what really saved us through COVID-19. Whilst some of the verticals like retail and hospitality were really impacted, other verticals like healthcare and construction were in desperate need for more product.

Part of our strategy meant we quickly moved any marketing and sales activity to the industries we knew were doing ok. We also spent time bringing some new products to the market for our clients that we were able to produce ourselves. We produced high margin, high demand product and kept our team busy in the months that would have been ghostly quiet had we not acted so quickly.

April 29-20

Circa 2007… @totalimagegroup
My first Fit Out, my then boyfriend, now husband was the Fitting expert (aka builder who agreed to help his needy GF with a huge contract)
It was country NSW and we drove off-road to get to some of the sites for staff to try on uniforms. Brumbies, brown snakes and bushfires, where some of the not so typical uniform experiences on this 4-day trip. BEST memory ever!
Have to say it’s been difficult to remember my WHY through a global pandemic. What drove me every single day to get up, dress up and show up! But taking a walk down memory lane certainly helps. And I’ve concluded I still do really love what I do! Could not imagine doing anything else!! And it’s ok every now and then we can get a little lost, lose our passion, especially through a global pandemic!
BOOM!

The first few months of COVID-19 was certainly a rollercoaster and there were many times I just simply didn’t want to face the day or face my team. But my greatest takeaway has been that if you are passionate, if you are kind and you really do care then somehow things will work out.

My leadership style has always been to be honest and it was the honest leadership that ensured our team trusted me and were committed to the changes that had to happen. We cared for each other, we were empathetic to our clients and we tried to do whatever we could to help those we knew were doing it tougher.  

The pandemic truly highlighted the need to diversify. Whilst not a surprise, 2020 made sure that it was a key focus. It was also the year to take risks, with the ever-changing climate presented, we learnt the power of flexibility and agility.

As a business we have been able to expand our offering in order to thrive during a year that was so challenging for many. On a personal level, I was also able to bring to life my passion project in the form of my new label Capsule Collection Wardrobe which has been exhilarating.

With all its challenges, 2020 has been the push to explore the uncertain and knowing that we are able to face any matters head on assures me that we can continue our path to success.

Stay Smart! Get Savvy!

Get Women's Agenda in your inbox