Leading Through Crisis: Advice from Women Business Owners

Leading Through Uncertainty: Perspectives from Women in Business

As New York City reopens, I am reflecting on what it takes to lead through social crisis and uncertainty. These thoughts come as I prepare to moderate a panel on this same topic at the National Association of Women Business Owners NYC Small Business Summit on Tuesday, June 23 at 2:45pm EST

To prepare, I interviewed the Summit’s panelist of women business owners to source their greatest lessons on navigating uncertainty as leaders. They represent a wide spectrum of industries and business sizes with experience ranging from 2 years to 33 years in business. 

In this piece, four of those women share insights on how they managed their teams and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are

Ronnette Riley – Architect
CEO, Ronnette Riley Architect

Leading Through Uncertainty: Women Business Owners

Maisha Walker – Digital Media Maven
President, Message Medium

Leading Through Uncertainty: Women Business Owners

Lara Kisielewska – Design Firm Owner
Founder, Optimum Design & Consulting

Leading Through Uncertainty: Women Business Owners

Sharon Richtor – Business Coach
Business and Executive Coach, Area Representative FocalPoint Coaching & Training

I’ve arranged their answers into a bite-sized list packed with applicable knowledge. Take a look:

Q1: What has the pandemic taught you about leading through uncertainty?

Ronnette RileyArchitect

§ Just when you think you have a plan, the plan changes. Be flexible. Learn to juggle and shift priorities.

§ Take care of yourself. Get sleep. Eat. Exercise. Carve out downtime. Keep your doctor’s appointments and health coverage proxy intact.

§ Look for new opportunities directly related to the particular disruptor.

§ Have an alternative revenue stream.

Maisha WalkerDigital Media Maven

§ Have an alternative revenue stream.

§ Have contingency plans. 

§ Build cash reserves, at least 3-6 months.

§ Be decisive. Make a plan and take quick actions to shore up business.

§ Build strong relationships with vendors and contractors.

Lara KisielewskaDesign Firm Owner

§ Remote work is difficult when the work requires collaboration. It’s important to manage response times to clients.

§ Early on in a crisis, strategize with financial professionals to figure out financing options. 

Sharon RichtorBusiness Coach

§ Over-communication is best. The same message can be heard by different people at different times and in different ways. 

§ Focus first on what is important to you, the business owner.  

§ Forgive yourself on the days you operate at less than 100%. 

§ Give back. Help others. 

§ Join a supportive community that has a shared sense of purpose. 

Q2: What actions have you taken to lead your business, customers and employees during the past 3 months?

Ronnette RileyArchitect

§ Lead with heart not, my head. Showed empathy.

§ Cut expenses quick and deep. 

§ Figure out how to meet deadlines and obligations virtually and remotely. 

§ Invest in creating a virtual workplace and master the technology that is used to create it.

§ Balance the work/family/health issues of our staff with the needs of the client. 

Maisha WalkerDigital Media Maven

§ Do what was possible to make sure that business kept coming in the door.

§ Lower costs.

§ Make sure my team of employees and contractors were psychologically well and treated each other with grace. 

Lara KisielewskaDesign Firm Owner

§ Be the source of confidence. State my plan and stamp out uncertainty.

§ Research and stay on top of all the available information needed to survive and rebuild.

Sharon RichtorBusiness Coach

§ Get my mind right.  It takes knowledge, skill and attitude to be successful as a leader.  Remember the Carnegie Triangle, skills and knowledge only make up 15% of success.  The remaining 85% is your attitude!

§ Meet my clients where they were and give them what they needed.

§ Create different service offerings including a free offering, to create goodwill.

§ Use this period to create new opportunities and discover new markets  for growth.

The most encouraging takeaway from interviewing these women is that with each new crisis, they became more prepared and confident in leading their teams and businesses through uncertainty.

The pandemic has posed extraordinary challenges for business owners, especially women business owners. Still, at every turn, I am surprised and encouraged by our resilience. 

Tricia M. Taitt is Principal of The Art of Money Matters, an outsourced CFO firm and Treasurer of the National Association of Women Business Owners NYC. She is a Phillips Academy Andover alum, Wharton undergrad, Duke MBA, and former Wall Street Professional who has spent the past 10 years helping CEO’s improve their profitability, cashflow and operations in preparation for growth and for sale. 

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