Making Pivots Permanent
Families and companies had to exist in completely new ways to survive the COVID-19 Pandemic, including all of us at VISIONALITY. However, now that I continue to hear celebrations around the prospect of “going back to normal” I’m acknowledging that normal wasn’t good for a lot of people and organizations. And maybe I don’t want to go back to normal, but instead, use this as an opportunity to build a company and life that is more intentional.
In December, 2019, my leadership team and I sat down for a strategic retreat to start to rethink where VISIONALITY could be in the next five years. What kind of work would we be doing, and what kinds of clients we would want to be working with. If anything, the Pandemic put that strategy on a bullet train. Our company was forced to adjust our offerings in order to meet emerging market needs, and changes to our business model, overhead and margins enabled us to offer not only year-end bonuses, but significant pay raises. At first, the Pandemic felt like it FORCED us into making changes, but by the end of 2020, we started to see that not only were these changes in alignment with our original strategic goals, but was also an opportunity to see how intentionally investing in our team could build a better company.
While VISIONALITY has been recognized as a top place to work by the Pacific Coast Business Times three times, I know we can be doing more to attract the best talent in the area. I want VISIONALITY to be the place people come to settle in and grow in their career. I want VISIONALITY to lead the charge in paying a Thriving Wage within the nonprofit community. I want our employees to feel safe, secure and valued. I don’t just want a mention in the Pacific Coast Business Times, I want VISIONALITY to have a reputation of being THE COMPANY where employees can bring their best selves every day, where hard conversations are celebrated, and where we’re always looking to the horizon of how to make our communities better.
And that means I need to continue to increase our profit margin **while also** increasing diversity, equity, inclusion, access (DEIA) across our team. And these things cost MONEY – we have CHOSEN to build these into our annual expenses, because for DEIA is part of who we are as a company, and in order to be more intentional about this, we needed to commit time and money to it. By committing to increase those expenses, we need to take a hard look at unnecessary expenses and low ROI decisions.
We did some simple things like replacing our office with a storage unit. We will rent an office by the hour if we really need to physically share space with others and that has only happened once since March, 2020. We consolidated tools and software subscriptions. We paid bills annually instead of monthly – you can typically negotiate a discount when you pay annually AND you will reduce your overhead and bookkeeping expenses because you’re only reconciling one transaction per year vs twelve.
There are so many small adjustments that organizations can make that add up to significant profit increases.
We also decided that, regardless of COVID, we will attend most meetings virtually. We realized that we can achieve similar outcomes with virtual attendance, and that driving to meetings has zero ROI for our team’s time and directly contributed to their burnout and stress. Beyond this, moving meetings to hybrid or maintaining virtual increases equity and access. If your organization is committed to DEIA work, don’t backslide to in-person-only meetings. It’ll take a little bit of work and maybe some money, but this is an easy opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to this within your organization and community.
The biggest decision that was part of our original strategic retreat in 2019, was to sunset an entire book of business that we had outgrown – the people I am hiring are smart, savvy program specialists, and fundraisers and communicators, and we needed to focus our offerings there. For me, this was a very hard, emotional choice. It was the book of business I started this company with, and I want to say yes to everything to make the world a better place. And I realized that I couldn’t say yes to everything and also achieve our BIG goal of paying a Thriving Wage.
And so I had to choose. And I chose my people.
What’s wild is: investing in your people (which costs money) actually increases profit in the long-term. A recent study exploring a four-day week in which workers were paid the same amount for shorter hours, found that productivity remained the same or improved in the majority of workplaces. It’s also a major theme we are exploring with our Thriving Wage research – the less employees have to worry about external factors like too little time, too little money, etc. the MORE mental and emotional space they have to contribute to work. It all feels a little “woo woo” but we’re seeing immense results.
Don’t take the easy road of “going back to normal” once the Pandemic is over (also, it’s not over yet). Now is the time think about the kind of organization you WANT to be, and how you can intentionally move towards to become that. Then every decision you make, be deliberate. Let go of things that are no longer serving you, lean into the things that do, and double down on an investment in your employees. It will pay immense dividends in the long run.