Just like the real estate landscape, my business has been changed by COVID-19

I recently read somewhere that, “It’s the grace under pressure that turns crisis into opportunity.” I wish I could remember where I read this and give proper credit.

As the world and Indiana open up and the local real estate industry begins to dust off the initial effects of COVID-19, I find myself ensconced and nearly paralyzed by challenges I’ve never before faced. And it’s not in just the areas I had anticipated.

In my early years in the Army, when faced with leadership challenges, my wise Father would coach me. “You never know what you’re capable of until you’re forced to do the things you never thought you could do,” he’d say.

As a naive 23-year-old female lieutenant leading soldiers twice my age, I initially believed leadership was about hubris and beating out the “old guy” on the two-mile run. I learned quickly that leadership is far more complex.

It takes humility, vulnerability, adaptability, and compassion. But being willing to make tough decisions and taking ownership of those decisions is far more important.

In the first few weeks of COVID-19, there were tough decisions our team at the Regan + Ferguson Group had to make. We had budget cuts, temporary layoffs, unemployment filings, and government loans to navigate.

As small business owners, we’ve waded through these murky and uncharted waters together. There was a sense of solidarity as we shared news, tips, and best practices. We cried together. We shifted and pivoted together no matter the industry, size, or reserves in the bank.

Our days in the last six weeks at the Regan + Ferguson Group have been measured by small victories—meeting with new sellers, writing contracts, conducting virtual tours, or calling previous clients to see how they’re managing during COVID-19. We’ve celebrated the victories no matter the size.

As all businesses begin to emerge from the stay-at-home order in waves, those victories now vary dramatically from business to business, and I find myself in uncharted waters again. Some of my peers are able to bring back staff in full force. Others are barely holding on by a string. While some never skipped a beat, but were either too sensitive to the world around them, or too humble to share.

As we all adjust, and slowly and cautiously navigate the next few months, our leadership skills are put to the test. How have our employees fared? What emotional and financial battles are they still facing? Will there be another set-back, and will we have to unravel what we’ve just re-built?

Local real estate is picking back up across all price ranges. Showings for listings across the state have rebounded from their low point in mid-April and we now aren’t far behind from where they were at this time in 2019. Consumers are emerging from behind their computers, and their Zillow searches will hopefully translate to more listings and home purchases. But just like the real estate landscape, my business is changed.

Our budgets are different; our team structure is evolving; and our clients’ lives are forever altered. I sometimes feel like a 23-year-old lieutenant who needed to experience the setbacks in order to grow and learn as a leader. And once again, I’m leaning on the sage wisdom of my father, a former military officer and corporate executive, who admittedly didn’t always have the answers. But nevertheless, he exhibited grace under pressure.

As a small business owner, I won’t have all the answers either, but hopefully, I’ll continue to learn and to do right by my business partner, our staff, our agents, and our clients.

These are my new COVID-19 takeaways:

  • I will transform my business for the good. My business partner, Heather Regan, and I will adapt our business to thrive in this new real estate landscape. We will embrace change.
  • I will continue to surround myself with wisdom and diversity.
  • I will identify the skills we need to succeed in the future, and engage, support, and nurture our staff so they feel supported, empowered, and vested.
  • I will grow my leadership pipeline within my business, so when faced with future setbacks and challenges, we won’t just survive, but we will be prepared to thrive.
This blog is part of an ongoing, weekly series in Input Fort Wayne, following local small business owners as they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Read Leslie's previous blogs here.
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Leslie Ferguson is co-owner of The Regan + Ferguson Group at Keller Williams Fort Wayne. She is one of Input Fort Wayne's small business bloggers, sharing her experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.