All companies faced serious obstacles during the pandemic – and ours was no exception. Worse than anything, though, was the way in which our company culture took a nosedive. Fortunately, we not only expected this but had also planned for what we envisioned as a triumphant comeback. Here’s how this journey panned out, and how we got our culture back, better than ever. 

The Road To Success Worksheet

When we work with clients, we use something called “The Road To Success Worksheet.” This planning tool helps us organize the project in terms of what worked (and didn’t work) in the past, success criteria, obstacles & challenges, strategies and the main goal. So when COVID-19 first hit, the first thing I did was sit down and map out our own road to success through this very large and looming crisis. 

Through this business planning process, it became incredibly clear what needed to happen. We needed to lay people off (with a plan in place to bring them back as soon as possible), sell some of our buildings, consolidate our locations and change almost everything about how we operated. And the kicker was: we had to do it fast. I knew this because I had moved too slowly in 2008, and it had almost taken us under. I wasn’t going to repeat the same mistake. 

Specifics & Relationships

Once the plan was fully baked, I reverse engineered what had to happen to get to our goal of emerging stronger than we had gone into this. I transferred the specifics onto two eight-foot whiteboards, which included everything we had to accomplish with every person and every department across the board. Then, we got to work. 

Laying off our team members was the hardest part of the whole ordeal. Even though I had a defined plan for how we would hire them back at our earliest opportunity, it enormously sucked to go through. I asked our employees to trust me, and to trust that I had a plan. Although there were (naturally) hurt feelings and fear, they did trust in our relationships and in my vision. 

Rebuilding The Band

Once the PPP loans became available, we were able to bring our full team back (with the exception of two folks who were moving to another state or retiring, respectively) even earlier than expected. Everyone was thrilled to be back, but there was still underlying uncertainty. You can’t expect people to feel secure when they were just let go a few months prior. So, we decided to be uncompromisingly intentional about two things: putting our team members’ sense of security first, and taking the opportunity we had to update any of our processes and habits that weren’t serving us. 

We took the time to think through how we could make our business and our culture better. As we brought people back, we clearly defined what they were doing at the company and then upped the ante, making sure everyone knew which results they owned, the role they’d play in the comeback of trade shows and in getting the company back on track to hit the 10X goals we had set three years before. 

The Nitty-Gritty

We had the warehouse team come back early so they could prep the physical space before everyone else returned. Then we had honest conversations about wanting employees to participate in the reformation of our company and invited feedback about improvement (e.g. making safety-related changes, ideas for get-togethers, etc.). 

We also got a smoker so we could do more cookouts than we had before, and we upended our Monday morning meetings. Instead of using the time to talk about projects, we began focusing these gatherings on wins from the last week, who deserved the “golden ball” and other fun things. This set the tone for the week and helped to strengthen our camaraderie once more. 

There were many other ways in which we were intentional, but this is an overview of how we approached company culture as we rebuilt our company. If you need a culture change, try these management tips within your own walls. There are few substitutes for a rock-solid plan and honesty when it comes to navigating tough business times. 

Want to learn more about our company culture, and how to work with us? Check us out at