IA: How about top lessons that you’ve learned during the pandemic?
Amy Webber, Cambridge: What’s been validated for me is that I literally have the best executive team on the planet. They are amazing. They mobilized really fast, which allowed me to focus more on the higher level — the morale and the psychological well-being of our associates and advisors — as we moved to where what’s business and what’s personal had to converge quickly.
As a leader, it’s been tough to know that no matter where we go, there’s a strong possibility we’re not going to win over a 100% of the people that we care about. But we had to make the best decisions that we could.
It became part of my job to just constantly remind everyone that we aren’t choosing anybody over anybody else, and that this is a difficult time. We’re trying to make the best decisions we can for Cambridge Nation as a whole.
Also, I’m convinced you need some office space. You must bring some [staff] back at some point in time and in some way, shape or form, because we’ve got to keep that component of our business that is relationships still going. [Staff] need to be able to look across at their associates sitting next to them and talk … about their day.
I’m not saying we can’t keep being excellent for a year [in a virtual environment]. But I don’t see that as a fully sustainable model for our business for five or 10 years.
That’s what I’m thinking about constantly. What [virtual] pieces make us better and stronger collectively, so we want to hold on to them? What do we need to bring back [to the office]? How does that need to be rethought? What do we need to do to help ourselves execute in the new world that we’re headed into?
Lon Dolber, American Portfolios: From a leadership point of view, it was an opportunity to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. I’ve always told my employees that they were the most important. So I had to stand tall and tell my employees, they would have well-being no matter what. They would not be laid off.
I do think that they were convinced of that 100%, and that’s why they went the extra distance with safety and security to support the advisors in the field.
We were already through our merit increases, and we had this big discussion about what to do about that. We did the merit increases. I wanted them to know I would do whatever I’d had to do to keep their compensation, with no layoffs and no diminutions.
I was worried. I wasn’t sure what the outcome of all this would mean for our business, but I knew I had to give that confidence to my employees.
Ryan Diachok, Geneos: There were a pretty scary couple of weeks there when none of us knew what our businesses, communities and the country were going to look like.
This was a culmination, and like what Lon said, you’ve got to walk the walk. We got out in front of it and had a lot of pretty meaningful conversations with our employees on one side and then with advisors on the other side. We were not going to have any layoffs; we’re going to take care of our people.
Also, I’ve got a fantastic management team as well that stepped up and reacted very quickly and efficiently. After all these years of building these systems — BCP, voice, cloud and such — you don’t really know how it’s all going to work and how people are going to react when they’re working in a remote environment for months and months on end.