How Are You Leading Through Crisis? Texas CEOs Share Their Advice and Strategies

How Are You Leading Through Crisis? Texas CEOs Share Their Advice and Strategies

As we forge through uncertainty, it’s helpful to know that you’re not alone. We asked your fellow Texas CEOs to share their thoughts on how they have led and managed the business through the pandemic and its fallout.

Katy Messersmith, CEO, Katydid Wholesale — Dallas, Texas


We are using this time to focus on alternative ways to grow the company—like drop shipping and no minimum for wholesale orders—and expanding retail by launching new initiatives that we were always “too busy” to focus on, such as influencer marketing, review gathering, text marketing, Facebook ads, etc.

That way, when business does come back in a few months, we will come back “bigger and better,” since we continued to diversify and focus on initiatives that we probably wouldn’t have had time to focus on prior to the virus. This also keeps our current warehouse staff busy, which would normally be shipping orders. Now they’re learning new tasks to keep busy and help grow the company so morale stays high.

Andy Keith, CEO, MultiView — Irving, Texas

We foremost want to provide clarity and security for our employees. Clarity is a finite resource at the moment. And so is security, for that matter. In an environment where information and misinformation spreads rampantly, we’re striving to be a source of clear communications to the MultiView team. The company needs a unified voice, ideally from the top levels of leadership, and needs to be on the same page at all levels. Yes, uncertainty is in the air, but maintaining unity and stability in the organization is the first step to navigating crisis.

Beyond that, we’re also trying use this as an opportunity to apply some focus to innovationBusinesses tend to take defensive actions in a crisis, and some may be necessary. However, let’s look at this as an opportunity to get the entire organization thinking about ways to innovate. That could be externally focused on our product lines or internally focused on processes and methods. Don’t be afraid to give employees some time to analyze and think about how we can do things better during and on the other side of this crisis.

Todd Coerver, CEO, P. Terry’s Burger Stand — Austin, Texas

Lead with calm, compassion, and transparent communication. This isn’t the time for panic or profit. Do the right thing, take care of your people, and stay true to who you are as a business and a culture.

Samantha Boles, President and CEO, Automated Security Integrated Solutions — Houston, Texas

As a leader and business owner, this is a challenging time. I find communication is important. Just as I like to see the news briefs daily from the White House, I know my employees like to stay informed, and it (hopefully) eases their anxiety a bit about their job. We are used to natural disasters in Houston. We have dealt with office, school, and business closings many times. Even in recent years. Texans are resilient. We get through these things.

Gary Keller, CEO, Keller Williams Realty — Austin, Texas

Bottom line: We want our Keller Williams family to know we are with them every step of the way. We are doubling down on the heart, training, technology and leadership needed to protect and power our agents’ business through the unexpected. We are packing our current livestreamed training sessions with even more valuable content focused on tackling the realities of today’s market. Every day, from 10am to 4pm, we’ve been kicking off a live session every half hour, covering the topics that matter most right now: mindset, lead generation, remote working, expense, management leverage, and more.

Adam Zeitsiff, CEO, Gold’s Gym — Dallas, Texas

There’s no playbook to follow here, so we’re doing our best to stay as up-to-date and informed as possible and to approach each day with the goal to do right by our valued members, team members, and communities.

We did proactively decide to temporarily close all of our company-owned gyms in advance of most city and state mandates in an effort to help “flatten the curve.” Our top priority after public health has been making sure we make smart decisions that ensure Gold’s Gym remains a viable, long-term business for our team members and members to return to upon reopening.

As a company, we are staying focused on our core mission to change lives by helping our members achieve their potential through fitness—especially now that COVID-19 has morphed into a public health crisis that is redefining every aspect of our lives. That’s why we began offering our digital personal training app GOLD’S AMP™ for free to everyone in the United States, member or otherwise, through May 31, 2020. We are also providing free Gold’s Gym at-home video-on-demand workouts globally so people across the world can stay active, healthy and continue working out wherever they feel comfortable and safe. That was a humanity decision, not a business decision, and that’s where Gold’s Gym needs to be right now.

Carol Y. Guess, Esq., Chair, Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors — Houston, Texas

The Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce’s primary focus at this time is the viability of our businesses both during this unprecedented event and in the foreseeable future. As small and minority-owned businesses will be the hardest hit, we take seriously the effect COVID-19 has and will have on the lives of our member businesses and their families.

Accordingly, we have begun providing our members with webinars and live social media events centering on business sustainability and resiliency, featuring experts from various industries, as well as public officials, who will provide up-to-the-minute information that affects our member businesses’ survival.

Rom Krupp, Founder and CEO, OneDine — Dallas, Texas

In times like these, I am reminded that companies are not just legal entities that generate sales and profits but are a collection of people joined together towards a common goal. When we face a crisis like this one, we need to move to daily planning and short-term goals and be extremely agile, as plans can change by the hour. Stay honest to all the stakeholders, not just the exec team, and create an environment in which minds can join to find creative ways to overcome these hurdles.

Brittany Hebert, Founder and CEO, Sky High for Kids — Houston, Texas

As a leader, it is my responsibility to set the tone for everyone involved in our mission to help end childhood cancer. Organizations, especially those like Sky High for Kids, which rely heavily on fundraising events, must adapt and innovate as recommendations from health authorities shift. Frequent communication, utilizing every tool available, is required with all stakeholders, including donors, volunteers, board members, and especially staff.

Even when working remotely, Sky High maintains daily check-ins and built virtual brainstorming sessions that have resulted in new strategic initiatives. I’ve even shifted the normal job descriptions, encouraging my team to be creative and find new ways to diversify how we fundraise. CEOs must now, more than ever, allow for free flowing of ideas from all staff, no matter the level, by building a culture of trust. Extreme challenges can ultimately breed enormous opportunities. At the end of the day, mission comes first and always.

Allie Danziger, President and Founder, Integrate Agency — Houston and Austin, Texas

During times of crisis, your voice is amplified to the max, and people listen to every word you have to say, which is why—if not completely thought-through—your voice can breed misinformation, confusion and stress across the board. It’s critical for business owners to say the right things, to the right people, that will inform and motivate, and use their voice and skills to make a positive impact on the community.

Don’t let others control your company’s narrative. As humans, we naturally fill in gaps in communication to understand what’s going on around us. Rather than letting people assume information about your business, get in front of the conversation and share real-time updates as you adjust to a new business-as-usual.

Ross Buhrdorf, Founder and CEO, ZenBusiness — Austin, Texas

My advice during these times? Communicate. Communicate often. Communicate honestly. Communicate clearly. Communicate! Leaders need to stay engaged with their teams and customers. Don’t hide during this time. Whether that’s leading chats in Slack, making a point to appear in company-wide or team-wide Hangouts to check in and provide updates, or simply make appearances and give people a sense of calm. Morale-wise, the last thing people want to see is a nervous CEO leading the pack.

Being a Texas CEO, I keep telling others not to panic. Show grit. We’re a business-friendly state with tons of small businesses. We’ve seen a lot. Been through a lot. Survived a lot. We’ll survive this, too. Especially if we show grit and stick together.

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