Innovation Prevails During Times of Crisis

When there is no clear road map, let tried-and-true leadership principles become your compass for innovation.

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By Ryan Stana

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

On Thursday, March 12, I woke up in London to the frantic ringing of my phone. In town to celebrate the opening of our brand-new European headquarters of my live experience company RWS Entertainment Group, I went to bed the night before excited about the next day's launch event. After all, this day had literally been years in the making — global expansion has always a goal of mine since I started RWS in my living room in New York City 17 years ago. With the help of an incredibly talented team and the support to our wonderful clients, we knew we were ready to expand with an official EU HQ across the pond.

Little did I know, the entire world dramatically changed while I slept as the growing outbreak of the coronavirus threatened our very way of life. Amidst so much uncertainty, including the proposed suspension of travel from the EU — I wasn't even sure I'd be allowed to travel back to New York. That said, I innately knew one thing for sure: My team, including 4,500 seasonal employees worldwide, needed leadership more than ever.

Related: COVID-19 Will Fuel the Next Wave of Innovation

Here's the thing: There is no rule book for running a business during a pandemic. That's where tried-and-true leadership principles become your compass. It doesn't matter the circumstance, good or bad, and here's how I lead my team:

  1. Employee safety first: This is simple — never put your team in harm's way
  2. Overly communicate to employees and clients: If you think you're over-communicating, you may be communicating just enough. Within confusion, people are seeking clarity. Silence, even if just perceived, only leads to confusion and mistrust.
  3. Innovate: Often in business, you need to pivot tactics while still maintaining true to your vision. This is certainly one of those times. For instance, since we can no longer cast in-person, we have created an online channel to hold live auditions as well as provide coaching and Q&A sessions to ensure that we continue to build our talent base and, perhaps more importantly, ensure that they maintain their creative muscles during this difficult time.
  4. Lead with strong directives: But, most importantly, don't sacrifice the fun.
  5. Maintain a regular schedule: More on this below.

Related: 9 Ways Your Company Can Encourage Innovation

Of course, that's not to say that it's all smooth sailing, especially now, when much of our country is working remotely. All 110 of my New York employees are currently working from home — and, honestly, none of us know for how long. This is uncharted territory, and something I've found to be incredibly helpful and imperative to my continued approach to moving forward is maintaining a daily schedule. A little structure goes a tremendously long way in keeping me and my company on task and feeling productive and energized for the day ahead.

As a point of reference, here's what my daily schedule looks like right now:

  • 5 a.m.: Wake up, coffee, catch up on the morning news headlines while reading emails
  • 6 a.m.: Work out — this allows me to clear my head and align my thoughts and goals for the day
  • 7 a.m.: Get ready for the day and breakfast (my go-to is oatmeal with strawberries, cashew butter, cinnamon and almonds)
  • 8 a.m.: Finalize my daily goals and any action items my leadership team needs to complete today
  • 8:30 a.m.: Daily check-in no. 1 — a one-hour meeting that includes my leadership team and key staff to discuss any COVID-19-related concerns with accounts or employees
  • 9:30-12 p.m.: Standard meetings with staff and clients
  • 12 p.m.: Make lunch (Fun fact: prior to COVID-19, I'd only used my kitchen twice in four years!) and a walk around the block for some fresh air
  • 1-4 p.m.: Standard meetings
  • 4 p.m.: Daily check-in no. 2: same team and agenda as the first one of the day
  • 6 p.m.: Workday ends; make dinner
  • 7:30 p.m.: Walk the dog to clear my mind and decide on tomorrow's priorities
  • 8 p.m.: Mind-numbing TV time (Real Housewives, anyone?) with my computer and phone by my side (I'm available to my team and clients 24/7)

For anyone running a business, small or large, I would highly recommend maintaining a sense of normalcy. You must impress on your team the need to move forward so that, once we come out of this, we come out with a continued sense of who we are and what we are going to achieve.

Ryan Stana

CEO and Founder of RWS Entertainment Group

Ryan is an entertainment industry expert. RWS has garnered an EMMY® Award, numerous IAAPA Awards, and multiple Magellan Awards for their work. Ryan is also regularly cited as an industry expert in key publications.

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