So for the past five months I have been forced by the pandemic to change the way I interact with the people in my life both professionally and personally. My new reality and I am certain, yours is using one of the many platforms available to meet virtually. Though not always ideal they still allow us to communicate, interact and even conduct business. In talking with some of my business colleagues some of them feel that virtual meetings allow them to be more productive and spend less time in their vehicles tied up in traffic jams trying to get from meeting to meeting. Others complain that virtual meetings don’t allow them to read body language and facial expressions that a face-to-face meeting does. Personally I find that although there are certain drawbacks like screens freezing from time to time, that for the most part I have had productive meetings using platforms like Zoom or Webex. I also noted that many people I have encountered on these virtual meetings appear to be more relaxed and open in conversation. In addition they have conveyed to me that for the most part they have been able to continue their business activities using virtual meetings. Looking back when this technology didn’t exist, business would have been in an even more difficult place than we are currently experiencing which is pretty dire. There are no perfect solutions, but virtual meetings have been for the most part been one of the better innovations of the past decade.
I am not surprised by our current circumstance of living and working in the midst of a global pandemic the warnings had been coming from scientists for years. What has been surprising to me has been the resilience, tenacity and creativity of many of the business people I have been speaking with over the past several months since COVID 19 has started. Yes the toll on business and lives has been substantial and it will take a great deal of time to recover from this, but we are learning new ways to conduct business and interact with one another. I am struck with the positive attitude and willingness of people I interact with to find ways to negotiate their way through a complex and difficult and for most of us a new reality. For me I have been working from a home office for more than two decades so there was no big adjustment for me on that front. The thing that bothers me the most in the current state of affairs is the lack of direct human contact. Platforms like Zoom meeting and Google Hangouts are a great alternative and allow one to conduct meetings and get much done without the hassle of traffic jams, but I miss the face to face contact. That being said I am adapting to doing business in the virtual and I am a grateful for the digital platforms and programs that allow us to continue to operate our businesses in spite of a serious and sometime deadly virus. I am struck by the ingenuity and creativity I am witnessing daily as I engage in stimulating conversations with business leaders and founders.
Over the years I have attended workshops and read books and articles about the complexities of doing busy in our modern and fast-paced world. Every once and a while I step back and take a deep breath and ponder. Sometimes I think we just overthink and create complex models and structures on how to achieve exceptional results. In many instances business is based on human interactions. The need to resolve client issues, to improve client interactions, or to revise product offerings can be facilitated through the simple act of regular and open communication with clients. Too many businesses don’t follow a regular course of talking with their clients on a regular basis to find out how they are faring in the clients’ eyes. They also fail to simply ask what else can we do better or provide that we aren’t doing currently. People want to be consulted and they want their input to be considered. We get caught up in the latest business models and buzzwords, but in essence at the core of every business is the human element. I am not casting aside the importance of business research, I am saying that we often overlook the human element at the core of every business no matter how big or small. The communication between one or more people in a positive and meaningful way can truly be the difference between a successful business or one that fails.
Sometimes we just get comfortable with our routine and the systems we use and the way we work. I have had a dose of reality with some long-time clients. I have a process of review meetings to discuss the trends of the usage of their employee benefit plans and once year we meet to review the proposed rate increase or decrease of their benefit programs. I normally give my clients sufficient notice and optional times we can meet. This has worked relatively well for many years. Recently I have noticed it doesn’t work for all off my clients because some of them of them are project driven and if I catch them at a time they are overwhelmed by project submissions and deadlines they simply don’t have the time or desire to meet with me face to face. I have had to accept that although I have worked hard to both negotiate on their behalf and put together an analysis of what has transpired over the past year with their benefits program at the time I would like to meet with them I am simply not a priority item for them. Although I prefer a face-to-face meeting it does not work for them. I can’t take it personally it is about their business and priorities not mine. I have had to learn to do business in ways that work for my clients. Sometimes you simply have to get out of your comfort zone and learn to adapt. I was caught in a rut and was comfortable doing business in a routine that worked for me. Change is inevitable, embrace it.