Leadership in Uncertain Times, Part I: Advice From the LA Tech Scene

March 25, 2020
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Running a company is difficult enough when things are going well. In the midst of a global crisis, it’s harder. Much harder.

But leadership doesn’t have to be a lonely enterprise. And according to more than a dozen interviews with tech leaders across Los Angeles, now more than ever, it shouldn’t be. In Part I of our series on leadership in the era of COVID-19, we share how five companies are coming together to make it through uncertainty, in their own words. 

 

 

While it’s easy to feel powerless, there’s one thing every company can do to control their situation: Treat each other well. So says Robin Richards, the CEO of HR tech company CareerArc. Here’s what he told us about the unique challenges of managing a company today. 

 

As a leader, people are looking to you for answers. Where are you finding the support you need? What advice do you have for other leaders who are walking into a world of uncertainty?

Being the leader of a company can be a very lonely job in good times. In tough times, it’s even harder. Let’s open up new lines of communication to discuss the hard decisions we need to make in the best interest of our businesses. Offer to be a sounding board for other leaders with less experience.

While many are feeling powerless, it’s important to remind our teams that we do have control of some things. We can remain compassionate. We can be good parents, partners, sons and daughters, neighbors, and colleagues. We can try hard every day at work. Remind your employees that they’re not alone. You’re there for them, and we’re all in this together.

 

Over the coming weeks and months, what concerns are you anticipating from your team? How are you addressing them?

I anticipate the biggest challenge will be the uncertainty of this situation and the anxiety that creates. No one has the answers about when this pandemic will subside or what the full scope of the impact will be. My goal is to continue to help allay the stress and anxiety of this moment by staying positive, communicating regularly, maintaining transparency about how we’re handling things as a business, and providing stability for our company and employees. 

 

Beyond your team, what advice do you have for the LA tech community at large right now? 

As a world, a nation, a community, and an industry, we must keep in mind that we will see the other end of this, and we’ll be stronger together than apart. The best thing we can do is be kind to each other. As a tech community, we’re at an advantage — most of us are tech-savvy and set up to work remotely. Remember that not all industries are as fortunate. Help where you can. Offer advice or services so other businesses can keep moving forward as best they can.

Tensions are high. Be understanding and give each other some leeway, personally and professionally. Trust people to do the right thing. Some will let you down, but most won’t.

 

TigerConnect’s clients are among those most obviously affected by COVID-19: healthcare workers. The company’s CEO and CTO talked to us about how they’re responding to the crisis, including free resources they’re making available to healthcare workers and readjusted product roadmaps that make sense for their newly remote workforce.  

 

 

Tim Goodwin
CTO

As leaders, people are looking to you for answers. Where are you finding the support you need? What advice do you have for other leaders who are walking into a world of uncertainty?

I’m more motivated than ever, knowing the part TigerConnect can play to help improve our healthcare system and contribute in a meaningful way during a time of need. The Singapore health system used our platform, so we saw firsthand the value of having a comprehensive healthcare communication system. Timely care coordination can make a difference, so we’ve offered U.S. hospitals and health systems complimentary use of our texting network for up to six months.

The important thing is that we keep our wits about us, remain open and willing to change track, remain firm in our resolve, and most importantly, that we don’t lose our sense of humor. We will get through this and emerge stronger — that much I know for sure. 

 

Over the coming weeks and months, what concerns are you anticipating from your team? How are you addressing them?

We have the same concerns as many about working remotely, the possibility of employees or their family members getting sick and general anxiety surrounding COVID-19. We’re doing our best to amplify communications touchpoints, assess which employees might have challenges in remote roles, hold regular mental and emotional check-ins, and adapt product roadmaps to our new conditions.

 

Beyond your team, what advice do you have for the LA tech community at large right now? 

Every industry can help in a crisis situation like this one. The question is — what can each of us do for one another? For us it’s been providing additional support to hospitals and health systems (our customers) so they can keep up with the increased need for patient care. 

This will be a challenging time for all of us. We have a strong in-office culture and social distancing will have an impact on everyone. It won’t be easy, but this is our time to truly live our values, including “Be Human.” We take that one very seriously. 

 

Karen Porat
Co-founder

In this moment of crisis, Karen Porat is keeping a positive mindset and seeking advice from leaders who do the same. The Genly co-founder told us more about the importance of positivity and how she hopes to maintain a sense of normalcy for her staff.

 

As a leader, people are looking to you for answers. Where are you finding the support you need? What advice do you have for other leaders who are walking into a world of uncertainty?

We’re encountering an unprecedented landscape. Nobody in today’s world has experienced anything like this before, so looking to others for concrete answers isn’t possible. The people I look to for motivation are the same leaders and teachers who I looked to before all of this started. Surround yourself with people who attract opportunities and maintain a can-do mentality.

 

Over the coming weeks and months, what concerns are you anticipating from your team? How are you addressing them?

Our goal is to maintain as much normalcy for our team as possible and to continue with business as usual. We’ve transitioned to a remote work environment but are maintaining our regular work schedules and collaboration through daily calls, Zoom meetings and project management tools. Routine and productivity can help everyone stay focused and positive without falling prey to the thoughts of anxiety and the “stuckness” that can easily take over during uncertain times.

 

Beyond your team, what advice do you have for the LA tech community at large right now? 

At this point, the key is to maintain business continuity and focus on bringing value to others. Just this last week I’ve seen many creative solutions offered by individuals and companies that accommodate new lifestyle constraints. Companies should reassess their traditional goals and KPIs and focus on what actionable steps can be taken now, whether that means focusing on building brand reputation or offering free trials, to put themselves in a stronger place when things recover. 

 

First Resonance founder Neal Sarraf is speaking honestly with his team about the uncertainty the company is facing — and that he doesn’t have all the answers. Below, more about Saraf’s response to the crisis, and how he’s thinking beyond the immediate tech community to manage it.   

 

As a leader, people are looking to you for answers. Where are you finding the support you need? What advice do you have for other leaders who are walking into a world of uncertainty?

I look to my co-founder and all my colleagues. Leaders sometimes don’t have the answers, and presenting that vulnerability only makes the group stronger.

 

Over the coming weeks and months, what concerns are you anticipating from your team? How are you addressing them?

I expect concerns to be focused on the economic impact of COVID-19 on our business and the mental impact it could have on our team members. Our team prides itself on teamwork, and it is unfortunate that we cannot meet in person in our office in Downtown Los Angeles. In order to get ahead of any loneliness, we are bringing our culture online via virtual happy hours, hangouts and monthly team events.

 

Beyond your team, what advice do you have for the LA tech community at large right now? 

I believe we should show support to small and family-run businesses in our local communities by purchasing their goods and services. The tech community is quite tight knit, so in this uncertainty there’s also an opportunity to think beyond our industry and support non-tech businesses.

 

AppOnboard CEO Jonathan Zweig credits his board of directors and advisors for helping the company navigate all of the recent changes. He also told us about how AppOnboard’s distributed workforce has inadvertently prepared the company for this moment. Read on for more about his leadership style.

 

As a leader, people are looking to you for answers. Where are you finding the support you need? What advice do you have for other leaders who are walking into a world of uncertainty?

At AppOnboard, we’re blessed to be surrounded by an incredible board of directors, advisors and mentors who have seen and experienced worlds of uncertainty many times over. These wonderful people are standing by to provide advice and direction as we navigate these uncharted waters.

 

Over the coming weeks and months, what concerns are you anticipating from your team? How are you addressing them?

We’re fortunate to have a culture that transitions easily to a remote setting. Still, last week we hit the ground running. There’s nothing like being together physically, but in a global economy, there is a need for team-based communication around the world. And we believe that every single teammate should have equity and a piece of the pie, regardless of what country they live in.

 

Beyond your team, what advice do you have for the LA tech community at large right now? 

We would love to see our industry at large make the investments to bring more people from around the world to Los Angeles to live and work here to expand this great tech movement.

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