My name is Chris Reyes, and I am the Sales Manager for Haworth Philippines. After working in sales for over two decades and managing people for just as long, I would never claim to be an expert at selling, much less claim to be an authority in leading a team. After learning a thing or two along the way, I felt called to share this story.
Setting the Scene
Haworth Philippines is a tiny cog in one of the largest office furniture companies in the world. My team is comprised of people from all walks of life, having varying work experiences, coming from different generations and backgrounds, but always having two things in common—the love for both construction and community. Whether it’s business development, real estate, design, architecture, or project management, construction is a constant for the team. And together our team is made up of a community of very proud Filipinos.
The Philippines is a small archipelago in Southeast Asia. It is a developing country with a very dense population of more than 105 million people. Annual natural disasters, from typhoons to occasional earthquakes, flash floods, and volcanic eruptions occur with or without warning. Development and progress have always been challenging for the area. And then, the COVID-19 pandemic happened.
Culture and Resilience
The Philippines has not experienced an epidemic like COVID-19 in recent history. With a lack of infrastructure and the luxuries many other countries take for granted, the Philippines is not well equipped to manage an illness of such proportions. But the Filipinos as a people have always been known to be extremely resilient. We are so used to natural calamity that it is something we have come to expect. It is something we dust ourselves off of, move on from, and laugh about.
There is a concept in the Filipino culture called Bayanihan which means having communal unity and cooperation. Bayanihan is a Filipino behavior most evident during difficult times, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception.
In the beginning of our community quarantine—known in other places around the world as a lockdown or stay-at-home order—you would see things like people in cars giving food to the medical and military frontline workers. Fundraisers and drives were organized in order to provide financial support to COVID-19 patients and their families. Masks and face shields were being handmade and distributed to those in need during the global shortage of PPE. These are all small but impactful examples of Bayanihan.
Businesses—big and small—have not been spared, and the construction industry is no different. Global sales have naturally been affected, with projects being postponed or canceled. Closing deals has become increasingly challenging, especially in industries heavily reliant on relationships and face-to-face interaction.
Everyone had to pivot, and fast! New changes included the need to transition from personal interactions to virtual platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet. Webinars became a tool to get in front of the client—until people expressed webinar burnout and webinar invites were often treated like spam emails. These became fresh challenges that arose from what is being dubbed the new normal.
Despite all the challenges, our Haworth Philippines team stepped up. We had a phenomenal first half of the year during the height of lockdown. We followed a simple yet concrete formula with steps that guided our success in trying times.
- Clear Goals – It is no secret that in sales, numbers are key. You either hit your targets, or you don’t. It is important to explain goals to the team, understand the obstacles, and provide means to overcome them. Once the team knows what to do, you start concentrating on the targets, rather than dwelling on the challenges.
- Understanding Your Clients – At Haworth, we treat clients as partners and we acknowledge that we are all going through adjustments and transitions, as well as facing challenges due to the pandemic. Just like us, our clients have problems of their own. In order to best serve their needs, we engage in authentic conversations and lend a listening ear.
- Honesty Towards Your Clients – In these times, transparency is essential. Sharing what is possible—and what is not possible—is critical. Apart from meeting client expectations, it is also important to share our own. Honesty builds trust and strengthens partnership.
- Trusting Your Team – Confidence in the team’s training and competence is important. Trusting them to do ordinary things in extraordinary ways makes me less of a micro-manager. It allows me to focus on strategy, rather than daily sales operations.
- Sense of Ownership – Haworth employees are proud of what they do. With this pride, responsibility, and a sense of accountability, our teams own the work—we value it and we honor it, both individually and collaboratively.
- Teamwork – During something like a lockdown, a highly engaged team is essential to success. For the Haworth Philippines team, each team member embodies the Bayanihan spirit. Virtual collaboration can be a challenge, but having a tight-knit team of people who remain united makes facing challenges easier.
After all the struggles we have been through, and all the lessons we have learned and continue to learn as one Haworth, I am confident that we can all overcome this pandemic—not only as better individuals, but more importantly, as an even stronger and cohesive team.