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A leader can take many forms. A leader is a decision-maker, a motivator, a coach, a nurturer. But what happens when everything you’ve learned about business and leadership is tested by something you never saw coming—something you never learned how to lead through from a book or TED Talk?

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, business leaders all over the world had to learn by experience how to work through unexpected challenges and pivot in crisis. With fear and uncertainty in play, the leadership team at HomeSmart International had to make quick, rational plans and decisions to productively and confidently guide our organization during a time when confidence was hard to come by.

The Leadership Reaction
There’s a saying, “Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.” This is something our team has been living by as we’ve navigated through the second quarter of 2020. I believe teams should lean in and rely on each other. They should be vulnerable and honest about the emotions, fears and thoughts associated with the crisis. By doing so, leaders can eliminate as many unknowns as possible, because it’s the unknowns that will truly spin our thoughts and fears out of control.

The Pandemic Pivot
The biggest change in our organization’s day-to-day has been how we communicate, both from a method and frequency perspective. As a franchisor and a corporate brokerage, we’ve increased not only our cadence of communication, but also, our intention behind it. HomeSmart International has always taken pride in being fully transparent, but we’ve taken it to a whole new level this year. Data we used to review semi-monthly or monthly, we now view daily or weekly. We’ve always approached hiring and spending in a very conservative manner, and we’ve been successful with taking risks to grow. During this time, we applied the same approach to our pivot, but with a plan-for-the-worst, hope-for-the-best mentality. This has helped us move back into growth mode quite quickly.

The Motivating Strategy
We have been very deliberate about our connection with our staff, our brokers and our agents. We immediately launched a communication strategy around being 100-percent operational and 100-percent here for all of our customers. This thought process quickly spread throughout our corporate offices, our franchised locations and our national agent community. In essence, we started the wave of connectivity, but our HomeSmart community is what kept us all going.

The Tough Decisions
Unfortunately, like so many other brokerage companies, we too had to make some difficult decisions. Luckily, the HomeSmart model runs lean, which has spared us from having to make deep cuts with personnel and other resources. Our approach was to minimize the impact as much as possible. When making decisions, we looked closely at performance over the last year, redundancies and areas where we could streamline processes. We researched all programs available and assisted employees with utilizing such benefits. We’re happy to say that we’re back in growth mode and hiring more team members to help us achieve our goals.

The HomeSmart model is one that is technology-driven and runs on efficiencies that have allowed us to continue to do business and hit our service metrics as usual, even when 95 percent of our workforce was operating remotely. But beyond the systems and processes, our company is built on a foundation of mutual respect at all levels of the organization. We describe our community as a “bamily” (business family). And just like families, life happens, and you hit hard times. By leaning on one another and supporting each other, you can walk away from challenges stronger than before and better prepared to face the next one.

Ashley Bowers is president of HomeSmart International. She uses diagnostics and leadership interaction in order to build engagement and alignment throughout the organization. For more information about joining HomeSmart as an agent, visit homesmart.com/join, or visit HomeSmart.com/Franchising for franchising opportunities.

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