Follow the Leaders
To say that many small and mid-sized Virginia business owners find themselves on an emotional and operational roller coaster today is an understatement.
“We as CEOs have been plummeted into chaos, and the levels of stress for us have accelerated exponentially,” says Connie Hom, CEO of Buckingham Greenery. “We are taking the lead in this crisis, and our teams look to us not only for empathy, but also for guidance and true leadership. This is probably the best test of how we’re leading.”
As the backbone of the U.S. economy, how will small business CEOs manage the COVID-19 crisis? Some, like Hom and Charlie Connell, CEO of PUNCH, are finding a safe haven in confidential (and virtual) peer roundtable meetups. Both Hom and Connell are members of the Virginia Council of CEOs, and Hom says her roundtable group has given her “the opportunity to vent challenges in a very safe place.”
“The feeling is that I’m not in this siloed by myself,” Hom explains. “This has been a fast-paced, changing environment. There are decisions as a CEO in regard to labor, clients and revenue, and the shared experiences have been very helpful. The virtual roundtable has truly been a breath of fresh air, and the Council membership has proven to be, for me, a port in the storm.”
Connell agrees. “My roundtable has always helped me deal with the emotional side of running a business. Now, more than ever, it has helped me navigate the business end of it. Without my roundtable’s support, I would not have been able to sift through all the information we were bombarded with in terms of the Payroll Protection Act and all the other support options that were put in front of business owners. Our experience-sharing has been more influential than any other resource in making the decisions I have made to deal with our current situation.”
The nature of the confidential information shared within VACEOs peer roundtable groups means that trust among members often grows quickly and runs deep.
Melissa Ball, Managing Member at Ball Office Products, has been a member of VACEOs since 2011. She describes her roundtable as “a good, solid group with a high level of comfort with each other.” Where they once met once a month for several hours, they’re now meeting every week for an hour. She says the format of the meeting now is less structured than before, but it’s been an invaluable outlet for her and other members.
On top of managing her family at home, Ball is also managing new vendors, new customer relationships, new ways of handling freight inventory, and much more. “I’ve never worked harder,” she says. “Sometimes you just need a sanity check, you know what I mean? I’m like, ‘How crazy am I really for thinking this or doing this?’ And then I’ll be like, ‘Okay, it’s not just me.’ It might sound flippant, but it’s real. When you’re able to pose a question to somebody and say, ‘Okay, guys, here’s what I’m thinking,’ it’s helpful to hear what other people are doing, especially as it relates to payroll and HR and emotions.”
Many of the CEOs we spoke with reported that at times they’ve had almost too much information coming at them from well-meaning organizations and industry groups – and that it sometimes adds to the chaos.
JJ White, CEO of Dale Carnegie Southeast United States, perhaps most concisely expressed how many CEOs are feeling by saying, “Now, more than ever, is the most critical time in your business to find people who can help you get through this, but more than just get through it – actually create something in your business so that you’ll come out of this better than you’ve ever been before.”
Do you run a small or mid-sized business in Virginia? Don’t face these challenging times alone. Now until September 30, 2020, VACEOs is offering a no-strings, no-cost membership to those who would most benefit from the experience. Learn more at vaceos.org/community-membership