Day One of TriNet PeopleForce: Lessons, Advice and Incredible Business Insights for SMB Leaders

October 20, 2020
Day One of TriNet PeopleForce: Lessons, Advice and Incredible Business Insights for SMB Leaders

With this year shaped by uncertainty and unpredictability, day one of TriNet PeopleForce included an impressive lineup of distinguished speakers, business leaders and health experts who provided small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) with insights, analysis, and advice on how to move forward in an uncertain world.

Each session was engaging, filled with incredible insights and information for SMBs. And hopefully you were able to catch each one. With so much to take in, below are a few key takeaways from the day during the panel discussions.

The success of SMBs will drive the U.S. economy

The day kicked-off with a “State of the Union for SMBs” discussion between Burton Goldfield, president and CEO at TriNet, and Michael Mendenhall, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, chief communications officer at TriNet. Burton emphasized the role SMBs play in the U.S. economy and he believes that they are the engine that will drive the country on the path to economic recovery. According to Burton, COVID-19 has placed a renewed focus on SMBs in the U.S. – and they need three things to be successful – great policies, renewed focus, and incredible talent.

Given that TriNet works with more than 18,000 SMBs across different industries, Burton noted that his company has a unique view into the challenges they’re grappling with. Among key questions that are top of mind with SMB owners are on the topic of payroll, followed by navigating PPP loan forgiveness, wage and compliance issues, in addition to managing employee morale and return to work challenges. Burton also thinks that with the presidential elections just around the corner, business owners are also thinking about access to capital and credit, mitigating the impact of COVID-19, taxes and tax reform and healthcare costs.

“I’m thrilled to help these companies and am gratified when they survive and grow in this business environment,” said Burton Goldfield.

The pandemic has pushed businesses to rethink their benefits strategy according to Burton. With an increase in short-term medical benefits, rise of telemedicine and mental health becoming an extremely valuable benefit businesses need to keep up with the needs of their workforce. Companies are also exploring financial wellness, expanded sick leave and support for COVID-related claims.

COVID-19 is challenging everything you ever thought about how you run your business

What’s so incredibly unique about this pandemic is that “every single country, every single family on the planet is dealing with the exact same crisis at the exact same time,” according to Mona Sutphen, former White House deputy chief of staff, former managing director, UBS and senior advisor at Vistria Group in her session titled, “Business Unusual: 2020’s Economy, Trade and SMBs.” COVID-19 has caused us to question everything we thought to be true. In response – and to be better prepared – Mona suggests that SMBs should be able to answer five questions at any given time. They include:

  1. How to deal with a potential 25-30% drop in revenue such as seen in spring 2020
  2. Do you have operational flexibility?
  3. Do you have visibility into what's going on with your capital providers and with your partners?
  4. Beyond infection rates, what data and trends are you watching? What’s permanent and what's just temporary?
  5. Are you on offense and nimble so that you’re not left flat-footed when competitors are rushing out to new opportunities?

It is important for businesses to constantly refresh skill sets, particularly in this economy. According to Mona business agility and having the flexibility to adjust to change rapidly be critical for SMBs while keeping pulse on real time data.

In the New Normal, Cash (Flow) is King

We have seen a lot of business change their focus quickly to meet the shifting needs of their customers. Some biotech firms and cancer research companies are a great example of pivoting their focus to find a vaccine for COVID-19. It is increasingly important for businesses to be creative and meet the needs of the shifting markets to succeed, according to Kelly Tuminelli, executive vice president of finance (and soon to be CFO) at TriNet. Kelly emphasized that in order to manage the cash flow businesses need to look at three areas closely; cost avoidance, cost deferral and risk management and also assess their fixed and variable costs.

Communications is Key During Change

We cannot emphasize the role of communications in building a company culture, navigating through change and surviving a crisis. Our panel ‘Talk Your Team Through Change Like a Boss’ moderated by Renee Brotherton, vice president corporate communications TriNet, discussed the key communication challenges SMBs are facing in the current environment.

Walter Faulstroh, CEO and Co-Founder Hum Nutrition, emphasized the importance of honest and empathetic communications in keeping employees engaged. “I always like to check any communication with brain, heart and gut. It’s about leading with intention. Communicating with your heart first; and with empathy.”

Anita-Marie Laurie, member of the firm Strategic Communications Practice, Sitrick and Company, recommends that employers should consider where their employees are, allowing them to choose if they are comfortable on camera or off camera to avoid fatigue over the long run and encouraging them to strike a balance to take care of themselves.

Two-way communication is critical especially under these circumstances and our panelists emphasized its importance in making employees feel empowered. It is important to encourage feedback as it helps employees share honest and candid feedback. Having an opportunity for your employees to communicate in an informal setting also goes a long way as people connect at a personal level and can have a lasting impact.

Figuring Out the Fiscal Stimulus

Small and medium sized businesses have shown resilience as they navigated many challenges thrown their way, and among those challenges is also the increasing confusion around PPP loan forgiveness. In the last six months there have been 3,103 COVID specific bills have been introduced in 52 states. With all the changes taking place it can be overwhelming for businesses to be prepared. Samantha Wellington, chief legal officer and secretary TriNet, joined by Michael J. Roffler, executive vice president and chief financial officer First Republic Bank and Alex Warren, senior vice president customer experience TriNet discussed the impact of the regulation on SMBs. Over the past few months businesses have learnt that they need to be agile in order to thrive. Samantha emphasized that businesses also need to be agile in their interaction with regulation.

Time is our most precious natural resource that’s non-renewable

It may sound obvious, but you can’t make time for everything. Brigid Schulte, Director of the Better Life Lab & The Good Life Initiative at New America, & author of the NY Times Bestseller, “Overwhelmed,” drove this point home during the “Before They Burn Out: Beating Employee Stress” panel. Businesses need to outline what is mission critical and important so that their employees have clear expectations and can be productive and avoid burnout.

People are struggling to juggle conflicting priorities, from work deadlines to managing their personal and family needs while feeling isolated. Brigid encourages listeners to take time to pause, refocus on their priorities and collaborate.

Your focus needs to be on structure and organization

Among other issues discussed today, renowned author Calvin Newport discussed the need for structured organizations. In order for a remote work environment to succeed where employees can be productive and not be distracted by technology, business owners and leaders will need to focus on how their organization runs. The more structured the organization, the easier the transition to a remote environment.

Change has been the only constant in the recent few months. Businesses had to adjust to the new reality with lightning speed against the backdrop of social unrest. This change that we have all witnessed is also going to impact the consumer behavior. According to Olivier Kohler, executive vice president, chief operating officer TriNet, the market has evolved from very binary interactions (between business and customers) to an environment where understanding the context (of the customer need or issues), navigating the interaction and providing the best answer possible is the next generation of customer experience. Olivier discussed the change in customer interactions during his session “Customer Experience 2.0, Not all Digital.”

Mike Wilson, Chief Investment Officer and Chief US Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley, wrapped up day one on a high note, leaving the audience feeling energized and optimistic about the future. In his session “Getting to the Other Side: How (and When) Will the Economy Recover?” Mike emphasized that businesses will have a really good earnings story next year. Based on his analysis he predicted a multipolar world where we will have multiple supply chains now, multiple currencies that are used around the world and the world will start to operate in these regional silos.

All that on just Day One! It’s been an incredible first day at TriNet PeopleForce. Make sure you join us tomorrow where we have another fantastic lineup. You’ll hear from Eric H. Holder Jr., 82nd Attorney General of the United States; Lesley Slaton Brown, Chief Diversity Officer at HP; David Heath, CEO and Co-Founder, Bombas; Arthur M. Southam, MD, Executive Vice President, Health Plan Operations and Chief Growth Officer, Kaiser Permanente and from so many more important thought leaders on pressing topics impacting all SMBs.

You can still sign up and tune in! We’ll see you soon!

This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.

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