In good times a leader’s job is to run the business smoothly and foster happy and productive employees and customers.
What happens in uncertain times, when how we work has never been more fluid? That’s the situation the nation has been in since the arrival of COVID-19.
At Direct Connect, a leading moving services company, people are at the heart of everything they do, and Chief Executive Officer David Holman says the coronavirus pandemic means it has never been more important to follow this ethos.
“In the current environment, while keeping our partner clients moving, it is important that the safety and security of our people and our partners are paramount,” he says.
David says as the COVID-19 situation unfolded, Direct Connect took a proactive approach and allowed employees to work from home, even before the government enforced such changes.
“Our office location in Richmond is extremely central via public transport, but we wanted to look after our employees’ health and safety as the number one priority, so working from home helped reduce the risk,” he says.
David says employees are also being supported via daily team check-ins to ensure everyone feels connected, with technology playing a key role in allowing this to happen.
“Even if there are no business updates we are ensuring there’s a well-being check-in as working from home can feel a little surreal being that we are such a people business,” he says.
“In these times of social distancing, communication is key.”
As he and his team move further into 2020, David says he’ll continue to bolster his human-centric leadership style and keep employees, partners and clients top of mind.
He says one of the crucial elements that pushes Direct Connect forward is the diverse range of leaders paving the way forward for employees.
“The team supports one another to try new things and deliver the best outcomes for our real estate partners and their clients,” David says.
IN THE TRENCHES
National Manager Belinda Seers says she leads her account management team the same way she captains her soccer team – down in the trenches.
“I roll up the sleeves and direct from the middle, not from the front, not from the back and not from the top,” she says.
Belinda says being a good leader also involves making changes to achieve business goals.
This year she restructured her team so she can use technology to virtually meet with referral partners more.
“What this change is going to do is allow me to work with the team in our growth markets more,” Belinda says.
“This year for me is really about active listening.
“Listening to what our partners are saying, listening to what the market is saying.”
Belinda says participating in more direct conversations with her team and their referral partners will enable them to better tailor their business, how they work and what they offer to their clients.
She values having the desire and ability to foster key client relationships, keep in touch more than ever before and nurture those partnerships beyond standard.
“It’s about looking beyond the traditional partnership of a rewards-based, one way street and saying we’ve got access to an energy company, we’ve got access to big data, we’ve got access to a huge network of influential people and some really compelling brains,” Belinda says.
“It’s about bringing all of that expertise together to deliver a service that is way beyond making sure that the power is on and the rewards are paid.”
Belinda is also focused on taking action on the issues Direct Connect’s partners voice as being important to them, especially in the current climate.
“What are people concerned about and what is the impact of coronavirus on our referral partners?” she says.
“What would be the impact of a potential recession? But most importantly, what can Direct Connect do about that?
“If you’re a small business and struggling with cash flow, we need to ask how we can impact that?
“Can we make more regular payments if they’re struggling with process efficiencies?”
Belinda takes a holistic approach to leading her charges, including having had sessions with a nutritionist for employees to learn how to best fuel themselves for their busy days.
When it’s allowed, they also have walk and talk meetings and the team completed “marching March”, where they recorded their daily step count, even while working from home.
Manager of Customer and Channel Insights Brendan Vaccaro and his team provide insights around the value and potential value of real estate agencies and tenants that use Direct Connect.
He leads his team of four analysts with three pillars in mind – education, communication and empowerment.
“If my staff understand the strategic direction of the company, if I communicate with them frequently and keep them in the loop on key issues, and make sure they’re skilled and trained and coached, then I empower them and trust them to make the right decisions,” Brendan says.
Brendan says empowering his team means they are highly motivated and engaged in their work.
“It also means they are often self-driven, and if they see areas of opportunity, they’ll jump on it, rather than being told they have to,” he says.
Brendan says his team also helps develop processes that operationalise the use of the insights they provide.
“It’s not just about providing insights for the sake of providing insights, people need to be able to make decisions, change and improve processes and drive business outcomes,” Brendan says.
“One current example is, we want to build a model that will help the account management team prioritise which channels to spend time on and also which activities to spend their time doing.”