Dealing with COVID: CEOs on the Front Lines

Running a successful business is a challenge in ordinary times. The times we find ourselves in today are anything but ordinary.

Alongside the traditional CEO responsibilities of establishing and maintaining a company culture, motivating and inspiring team members, and setting clear goals and lines of responsibility, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced the unique challenge of having to do all of the above, but remotely. If running a business in ordinary times is a challenge, running a multi-billion dollar, 300-person company during a global pandemic presents both challenge and opportunity.

For Rubicon and me, the transition from in-office to at-home work was an enormous effort on the part of our entire team, and I am proud to say that Rubicon rose to the challenge, and conquered it. In many ways, the company has been even more productive than before, and we have not missed any of our targets.

As CEO, a critical element of managing Rubicon during this pandemic has been communication and leveraging Rubicon’s already strong corporate culture. At Rubicon, one of our core values is to embrace challenge. At its core, our business is about upending an inefficient $1 trillion industry, and we have recruited and attracted people who are not only passionate about waste and the environment, but also curious, intelligent, and creative about finding solutions to seemingly insolvable problems.

Marshaling the team to rise to this new problem involved maintaining frequent and consistent messaging around the problem, its impact on our company, and the steps we were taking to overcome it. A lot of this communication involved messaging around concepts that might have seemed obvious. Maintaining consistent, steady messaging drove employee confidence in the necessary changes, allowing us to achieve buy-in at every level.

This communication goes both ways. I took the time to genuinely listen to our team members, and give them a chance to have their voices heard. I began hosting weekly all-hands meetings to keep everyone informed and engaged, and to give employees an opportunity to air their concerns. And I acted on those concerns, further increasing buy-in and confidence.

This shift to at-home work also placed an upsized importance on the social structures and activities already in place at Rubicon. This includes our cultural affinity groups, where employees can find communion with people of similar backgrounds and interests. Finding ways to transition these groups to an online presence was not only part of the challenge of our overall transition, but was critical to its success. At Rubicon, our company culture is the heart of everything we do, and bringing these cultural institutions along for the ride helped drive confidence that our transition would not only succeed, but could help grow Rubicon in ways we had never imagined.

In the end, transitioning to at-home work for our entire staff merely accentuated Rubicon’s role at the forefront of addressing this pandemic. From Day One, Rubicon has been on the front lines, helping waste workers to keep the disease away. Waste workers are critical to public health and keeping us all safe, and through our efforts to empower haulers, we have made a positive difference in the health and safety of this great nation — and the world.

In the coming months, I’ll be sharing how our hauler partners have dealt with the pandemic in their operations, earning what I like to call “Haul of Fame” status.

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