Call for Leaders | Liviu Tanase (ZeroBounce): There’s never been a time when business leaders were required to be more aware, flexible, and compassionate

Mihai Cristea 25/03/2020 | 14:57

In this period of crisis caused by the recent Coronavirus outbreak, when many organizations have responsibly decided to allow employees to work remotely, Business Review talked with some of Romania’s top business professionals to find out how they’re managing the current situation, for their companies and employees, as well as for themselves personally.

In the interview below, serial entrepreneur Liviu Tanase discusses how he’s adapted to the current times, both personally and business-wise. The founder and CEO of email validation service ZeroBounce also offers his perspective on the crisis and the approaches business leaders can benefit from in the following months.

 

Want more Calls for Leaders. Check out the Call for Leaders – 3Q section, where top business professionals answer BR’s 3 questions, bringing a positive, insightful, or otherwise constructive view of their markets in the context of the current crisis.

 

How are you managing the current crisis? What has helped you the most on a personal level?

The sheer speed and magnitude with which this coronavirus has spread worldwide and the resultant responses by governments across the world has been staggering.  Recently, my view of long-term business planning has shifted from being measured in months and years to days and weeks as the virus moves at an exponential rate.

As I broaden my view to the impact the crisis is having on people across the world, it troubles me to see the panic and pain which so many are experiencing.

Additionally, while we all agree the economic fallout from this crisis will be severe, it isn’t knowable today just how severe and how long it will be.  Given the speed, impact and fluid nature of the crisis, this is a time that calls for agility and wise decisions so we can safely emerge from the other end of this crisis and continue to move forward.

However, as real and serious as the situation is, I’ve found ways to disconnect from it daily, even if briefly, and better cope with the stress and overall sense of anxiety.

I rely very much on the simple things: enjoying a meal with my wife at home, walking and playing with my dog in a remote area behind our house, watching a good movie. During this time, I think many of us discover how little we actually need to be happy.

What helps me the most, though, is the fact that I can continue to work. I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life; my work is an anchor. Apart from it giving me a sense of purpose, it now allows me to support our colleagues, partners, and customers who aren’t as lucky as we are.

 

What decisions have you made to help your employees and organization ease through this time?

Long before the pandemic, we put a formal work-from-home program in place for all employees. Many of them have children – some have babies and toddlers – and we wanted to make their lives a little better. So, one day a week, each person was free to work from home to avoid the commute and spend more time with their families.

This move has helped us tremendously in switching to remote work. When the coronavirus threat had just started in the U.S., we allowed employees to work from home every day if they so choose. Once things started to get more serious, we switched to remote work completely. Our team’s safety and well-being are vital, and we wanted to mitigate risks sooner rather than later.

 

How difficult was it for your team to adapt to working remotely?

I’m impressed by how well everyone has adapted, by their constant focus and desire to help our company – and others – during this time. We have an excellent team and I’m grateful to have gathered only the best people around ZeroBounce.

Sure, having that work-from-home program in place has smoothed the transition. But also, the fact that our employees feel safer has reduced some of their anxiety, so they can focus on maintaining our service standards.

For our customers, business has been as usual: zero downtime and no interruptions. For our organization as a whole, it’s been a test that has proven how connected we can be, even when we’re apart.

 

What practical solutions have you found to keep the engines running? What tools do you use to communicate with each other and with customers?

As an email validation company, you can imagine we’re big fans of email. We’ve always used it extensively and continue to rely on it.

Also, we use Skype for quick messaging and conferences. Some of us use Slack and Trello, and we all get together at least once a week on Google Hangouts. Most ongoing content marketing and SEO projects are organized in Google Sheets.

As for meetings with our customers, our sales team uses the phone or Google Hangouts.

Most people have had at least one moment where they blamed technology for the lack of human connection it is causing. With millions of people working remotely now, technology is proving to be our true ally.

 

What are your plans for the near future, in case the crisis will continue in the following months?

We’re very lucky that our business is minimally affected by the current crisis. Our plan is to find new ways to help our customers who are going through a really hard time. As they rely on email now for crucial communication, we’re helping them make sure they reach their audience.

As for our company, we’ll continue to adapt and to improve no matter what the obstacles are. Also, I’m privileged to work with some of the most experienced entrepreneurs I know. By supporting and advising each other I’m confident we will weather the storm.

 

What did a usual work day look like for you a month ago and what does it look like now?

A month ago, things were as they’d always been since we started ZeroBounce: calm and focused on steady growth. Now, I’m adapting to each day as things progress.  It’s more about making sure everyone understands the situation we’re in and what do we need to do going forward.

My schedule hasn’t changed that much – the only difference is that now I’m on more conference calls every day. The communication has greatly improved between the members of our team.

 

What’s your advice for business leaders facing this crisis?

There’s never been a time when business leaders were required to be more aware, flexible, and compassionate than during these weeks and months to come.

Stay aware of everything that’s happening around you. If there are things you can’t understand and foresee, look for guidance so you can in turn guide your team.

Also, be flexible and ready to adapt to a new business environment. The way you prepare now is going to determine how agile you’ll be once new conditions emerge.

Most importantly, practice compassion towards your employees, partners, and customers. Convey your message of genuine empathy in everything you communicate publicly, as well.

 

What’s the most positive business news you’ve read today and want to share it?

What a challenging question! If you read the papers, it seems like the effects of the pandemic have buried all positivity. However, important things are happening that are alleviating the crisis.

Look at all the brands that have taken the initiative to fulfill the world’s need for medical supplies: masks, ventilators, disinfectants, sanitizers.

Today, Entrepreneur magazine wrote about various whiskey distilleries in the U.S. that have started producing sanitizer. All these businesses are doing what they can to assist those in need. The government has responded swiftly by lifting or altering laws to allow for immediate production. I can’t see a more positive way for companies to keep workers busy while supporting their communities.

 

What measures has the U.S. government taken to prevent the spread of the virus? What does America look like now?

As the virus has reached every single state, government officials are doing their best to “flatten the curve” – an expression we see everywhere these days as it’s become our global goal.

Most businesses have switched to remote work. All stores have reduced their hours of operation, all restaurants have closed their dine-in areas and offer only deliveries and take-outs. Cities look eerie because most people are at home.

 

Are you at home, as well?

I’ve been at home for more than a week now and my wife and I go out only for absolutely necessary errands.

We’re lucky to live in a peaceful area of Santa Barbara, with not a lot of traffic, so we can go outside and walk our dog a few times a day. But we’ve limited our social interactions and my hope is that everyone does the same. So we can all enjoy our world again when the time is right.

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