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March 26, 2020 | Tom Ballard

Boldsquare providing clients with strategic advice during the pandemic, also offering insights for our readers

Boldsquare is a multi-disciplined strategic communications practice that provides executive leadership teams with communications counsel in high pressure situations to help businesses navigate through growth, crisis and comprehensive change.

As noted in this article from a year ago, the Knoxville-headquartered firm was launched by Dylan Jones, Jeff Hooper, Mark Kroeger, Ron Fuchs and Deb Mitchell. Ron Feinbaum joined after the launch.

With a client base that goes beyond the U.S., we wondered how the COVID-19 pandemic was impacting Boldsquare’s work and what advice it might offer our readers. Fuchs, a fellow member of the Board of Trustees of the Pellissippi State Community College Foundation, provided this response for the team.

  • What sort of uptick in demand are you seeing? Is it across industry sectors or more defined within a few? Boldsquare has been working with a wide variety of clients across multiple industry sectors (e.g. manufacturing, transportation, healthcare, entertainment, engineering, etc.) to help them navigate a path through fairly uncharted waters. Lots of the work has been internally focused as the pandemic has driven businesses to help employees learn and adjust to new ways of working, make operational changes and consider strategic shifts. We’ve also had clients looking for advice on how to position themselves externally, not just to manage through this immediate short-term shift but also to position themselves for growth in the post-recovery phase. Whether companies are having to make tough decisions now about employees and/or about rapid shifts in business models, or whether they are preparing for what they see coming, or are in an industry that’s actually getting a bump from the situation, they need to respond quickly. These are all unique opportunities for us to provide strategic communications and business counsel. It’s also important for organizations to realize that how they treat employees and communicate with customers during this time reflects their culture and their brand – and what people see and feel now will last longer than the pandemic.
  • To what extent is your consulting being impacted by the need for social distancing? I assume technologies like Zoom, etc., are being used much more? Ours is a business that was always predicated on the idea of location being less important than experience, and as such we haven’t seen a huge client-side change in our work, although our creative work has shifted to a more virtual setting. We’re living on videoconferences, which we believe is a more robust communication channel than teleconferences (because seeing helps listening). Our primary VC platform has been GoToMeeting, although we’ve used a variety of tools (e.g. Zoom, BlueJeans, FaceTime, Google Hangouts and Skype) depending on what works best for the client. We also remind clients to avoid the bunker mentality when possible. Being “socially distant” (a phrase I hope disappears soon) does not mean being isolated.
  • Broadly defined, what core advice would you offer any employer at this time? As in any crisis, be open and honest with your key stakeholders, whether that’s employees, clients, vendors or whoever. People understand this is a tough time, and they will work with you if they believe you are being straight with them. The challenges we face are finite, but I believe if we respect each other, embrace innovation and proceed with purpose, our ability to deal with them is infinite. We should strive to be optimistic and view this storm, like most challenges, as a season which we’ll get through! As Henry Ford said, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” As Boldsquare’s Managing Partner Dylan Jones says, “We also recommend that clients try to separate out short-term from long-term, where financially possible. The strategy that made sense for you before the pandemic will likely still make sense afterwards. The organizations that do best in the post-pandemic period will be those that hold their nerve, plan for the uptick and take their shots.” As we coach executives, we remind them that they need to connect, connect and connect with their key stakeholders – from their leadership teams and employees to their customers, business partners and investors. A key piece of advice I give is to also encourage employers to be empathetic and compassionate. Recognize that this is an extremely stressful time for them and their families. In fact, authentically admitting that you feel the same way is a powerful way to connect on a human level. I recommend leaders commit to making at least one “non-agenda driven” call daily or several times a week (or daily) to someone in their organization. The powers of “Management by Walking Calling Around” can be impactful. Reach into all corners of your team and have a simple conversation to listen how people are feeling and if they need anything. People need to hear our voices and vice versa. Finally, it’s important for employers to encourage their people to maintain balance between home and work as we learn to work virtually. It’s easy to become absorbed, even obsessed with the rhythm of work. As I coached one executive last week: “Encourage your people to practice self-care. Get some exercise. Take a walk or try yoga. Maintain balance between home and work. Read a novel or listen to some music. Play a board game with your family. Do one of those 1000-piece puzzles that make me pull my hair out. As Marilyn Monroe once said, ‘A career is a wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it at night.’”

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