As CEO of Cummins Facility Services and a voice for female business owners, I was travelling all over the world before the pandemic hit. It felt like I was always going – visiting client facilities, attending conferences, speaking at events, and meeting with fellow entrepreneurs – perpetually busy, with no end in sight! Then, with the snap of a finger, that consistent movement stopped. The noise was turned down, replaced with fear and so many unknowns. My team was looking to me for leadership, and I was just as uncertain as they were. Not only did I have to learn how to adapt to this monumental life change and prepare our business to respond to this now critical increase in demand for our services, but I had to remain poised and positive for my team.
Fast forward a year and a half, and the pandemic continues to create disruptions in everyday life and in business operations – creating both challenges and opportunities. 2020 was a record year for the industry, with demand for our services soaring and the need to respond and support our customers in a safe way consuming all of our focus. 2021 is proving to be equally difficult…with labor challenges, occupancy rates decreasing and technology transforming the way we will do business forever. How do you continue to adapt your leadership style to address these shifts, while also really leaning into and recognizing the needs of your employees who have brought you through this once-in-a-lifetime challenge? While my focus has always been on taking care of my employees, the pandemic has caused me to slow down a bit and shift to a more empathetic leadership style that is more focused on the human element and the unique needs of today, versus what comes next.
Always treat others with dignity and kindness
Now more than ever, we are intentional about creating a welcoming and supportive environment for our employees where they know that they will be treated with kindness and respect, no matter the struggles they face. The fact is, people don’t have the capacity to deal with as much external stress as they did pre-pandemic. There are simply too many things pulling on them on any given day. One way that we are supporting employees through this challenging time is by allowing flexibility in their work from home schedule. We are no longer requiring that all home office employees work from the office every day. For some, this allows them the space and time that they need to make sure their own mental health is stable and address the needs of their families. Meeting people where they are, and offering support and creative solutions to address unique challenges is what is necessary at this time and I’m grateful to be in a position to support my employees in this way.
Never waste a crisis
COVID-19 has created plenty of crises for us, but I truly believe that every crisis provides MANY opportunities for learning and improvement. While the pandemic has been full of challenges, I believe we will emerge stronger and smarter, with better strategies and tools for operating our business, and more importantly, a renewed focus on taking care of each other!
Find your inspiration
One of the few things that hasn’t changed since I began leading this company – and if possible, has grown even stronger as a result of the pandemic – is my why. I’m truly inspired by the incredible people that I have the opportunity to work with every single day – first and foremost, my employees, as well as my customers, my peers, and fellow female business owners. I pray that my work always makes others feel uplifted, reminding them of how awesome they truly are! While every day presents a new challenge, I’m thankful for those who take the time to check in and show up. We are in this together!
Jill Frey, President & CEO
Cummins Facility Services, LLC