How to Live Through Any Shutdown Catastrophe: Team Bonding

Photo of Owl Street Studio President Brian James RawsonPhoto of Owl Street Studio Chief of Marketing Raven Ariana
June 30, 2022
by Brian James Rawson & Raven Ariana

In this series from Empathy, Marketing, and You, Raven and Brian discuss processes and ideas of how you and your business can get through any shutdown catastrophe. In this episode, they walk through how you can bond your team together, how you can guard your team against hard times, and how your team can truly care for you too.

Raven is the founder of Nevermore Creative, an online magazine and community for creatives and professionals.

Watch the episode above. Read the transcript below.

Episode Transcript:
An empathetic approach to people management

Raven: We got the consumer down, right? We can cater something to what type of customer we're trying to appeal to. But what about the people that were yanking around with us on this, on this circus ride, you know? Like, how do we keep our team members happy? Or how do we let them go? You know? I know it all boils down to the dollar, right? If we're talking about pricing. Obviously, the human resources component of it is saying that a person has a dollar amount attached to their head. But how - because this is Empathy, Marketing, and You - how do we have an empathetic approach to people management during this time?

Brian: Yeah, for sure. And I mean, this is what I definitely get excited about to talk about, and I don’t know if “excited” is the right word, but I get passionate about because I feel it is very overlooked, that one of the biggest, like you were saying, one of the biggest costs when you're looking overhead and profit margins is, is labor, is people, your staff. And I like to…for me personally, the way I think about it is: I think as business owners that you should always be diligent in protecting your staff.

Sow Good Seeds, Build Collectivist Culture

Brian: And… so I’m going to use the example that your staffing for the first time. So you're a brand new business or your first time hiring people and you're in the process of building a culture. And I think if you start out sewing really good seeds that it will take fruit that will sustain you through those hardships and those dry seasons, so to speak. So I think we have that outlook to hire not just because you need to fill a seat or get something done. But when you hire to grow a culture and create a type of…a type of family.

For me the word “family” and business kind of get thrown around a lot, so I'm a little uncomfortable saying like, “We're at work family” or something but…it's something like that - a type of collectivism or community or tribe or group effort, like a really large group project. That when you take the time to think of collaborating with people when you hire them, I think it changes the whole dynamic; and when you think of them as someone to help take care of and protect - not that your staff is helpless or incapable.

Take Care of Your People, Protect your Staff

Brian: We're not trying to be patronizing, but I do kind of, you know, I guess I will kind of use that word “paternal.” I know I can't shake my worldview of being a dad. And so it's just me and my two kids, and everything I do I have to think about what's best for them. Everything I buy, every decision I make has a ripple effect on them. I think as a business leader when you're that leader of like a real tribe or something, you've got to take care of your people, and you can make decisions just about you.

So I think when we switch that mentality it stops you from getting in a bind when you hit a pandemic and now you can't meet overhead costs and keep your staff. Like if you're always tracking your overhead costs, if you're always proactively protecting your staff - I don't think you'd ever get in that bind. Or you would have seen it coming a mile away. Or if you built a lot of inner brand loyalty or staff loyalty to your company and brand, if it really does feel like a tribe, when those hard times hit - people might volunteer their time.

Reciprocal: Taking care of each other

Brian: People - I don't think anyone wants to see their, their tribe collapse. And so people…I think staff can surprise you and help you out and have this kind of reciprocal, taking care of each other. So there might be other ways to brainstorm and get out of this bind.

But I think if you're thinking of people as a dollar sign or a cost or a number on a spreadsheet - I think it leads you to a lot of other decisions like planting bad seeds that eventually take root and bloom into something that I think winds up hurting you.

Essential Encouragement and Honesty

Raven: I guess like…what would you say to like encourage a business owner whose job may kind of be more like essential than ours…like a real life essential.

Brian: If I was a business owner of say, like if I ran a hospital or clinic or a grocery store or ran the dump truck service or things like with essential workers - I personally would really stress this sense of camaraderie and, and, and collective effort. And be as honest with people as I could be.

So maybe that's not a pivot for business owners, but that, that's I guess what I would encourage because I think it's the only solution to the burnout people are going to feel. I think it's the only solution to the wear and tear. Maybe you can't give everyone raises right now, maybe you can't put everyone on vacation. But if you're just honest with people, and maybe ask for their help, but also make sure that you back up what you want to say and don't over promise.

human capital is more important than the machine capital

Brian: And maybe just to give them space for for things not to be as efficient or as…maybe just be an honest that you can't run at full capacity, that maybe the routes are going to be slower, maybe unfortunately this clinic is going to have different hours. Maybe we can't serve everybody. Maybe we got to figure out a way to spread this workload out. And that we can’t… the human capital is more important than the machine capital. We can't burn out our people.

I hope that’s not a pivot. I hope people in charge are already doing that. I don't know. I'm not in all places. So I don't know. So hopefully, hopefully that's encouraging not cynical.

Raven: Stop, now you know.

Brian: That's what I would do.

Say No to Say Yes

Raven: That's literally what I was thinking. I was like: my piece of advice for business owners was to say, “No.” You know, like the answer's, “No, we're not open 24/7.” “No, we're not going to fix every piece of foot fungus that you found every…you know that you're trying to send a picture into the doctor's office every day.” “We're not doing that.”

You know, so it's about, “Yes, this whole, this whole thing is about essentials.” Right? So you're providing the essentials, you're accepting only the necessary and the rest you have to block out and really kind of preserve your energy in yourself.

Brian: Yeah, yeah, exactly. You can’t…I've learned from being a parent that you can’t give and take care of people if you've got nothing left. I've made that mistake before. I've had to learn the hard knocks kind of way. But yeah, you've got to have that space to do both.

Raven: Well, I think with that, honestly, we do encourage these business owners. We encourage you guys if you're listening, to take care of yourself, to say no more often, to assess how much things are, what you absolutely need, who's on your team, what they do well, what kind of energy and love and goodness you're putting out into the world as a leader, and what kind of loyalty you can expect to receive in return from your team and from your customers.

2022 is the year of…

Raven: And hopefully, in this time, things will get better. 2022 hopefully is a year of promise and prosperity. And if you need us, you can head over to Owl Street Studio. You can head over to Nevermore Creative Studio, and we can help you with the reputation part. We can help you with the future part. We can help you kind of pivot and make decisions based off of what you specifically do and how you can move forward. So any final words, Brian?

Brian: Just that I think, if people aren't already doing this, I figured this would be the year of Taylor Swift…since isn't that her song?…that we're all feeling 22?

But that's the only, that's the only thing I got.

---End of the Episode---

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