AJ: What have been your biggest lessons as a business leader during COVID-19?
JH: The importance of having a good relationship with your people, and having people on your team whom you trust and you have confidence in. When a corporation has to go from the office to everyone working from home, you have to trust that your employees are working hard, and we know at home there are distractions.
AJ: What have you learned about yourself as a leader during this time?
JH: I learned that I’m an awesome motivator. We’ve been able to keep the company moving forward. We’ve been able to grow in this environment. I’ve been able to build confidence for my people.
As a leader of a company, you have to show the way for your people. All businesses are concerned about the bottom line; but in the environment that we have right now, it’s more than just about the bottom line — it’s about the health of your people. And they have to know that you care. If your people feel you don’t care, they’re not going to give you their all. That’s all there is to it.
AJ: Who or what have been your resources lately — people, mentors, even ideas or networks — where have you gone for help or advice during this period?
JH: All of the above! I’ve been fortunate enough to be the mentee of one of the largest construction companies not only in Maryland but in the US. It’s good, as a small business, having someone whom you can reach out to and say, “Hey, how are you guys navigating this? Are you guys working from home, or are you bringing people in the office? What are you doing for safety protocols?”
I’ve also been fortunate enough to be a member of The Presidents’ RoundTable, which is an organization in Baltimore that encourages African American business owners to not only build corporations but also work together to make their communities better.
And when we talk about our communities, they need help now more than ever. Companies are not contributing to nonprofits the way they used to. I know we had to cut back on our giving. But then you try to find ways that you can still give, whether that’s spending time in the community, getting on a virtual call or talking with young kids.
AJ: How do you see your role evolving in 2021? Do you see more of the same, or do you see changes coming? Give us some perspective of what you think the future holds.
JH: I don’t think we’re ever going to go back to a five-days-in-the-office workweek. Not only is an abbreviated workweek good for morale, but we know that if your employees are happy, they’re going to be more productive.
We had a difficult situation because when COVID-19 first hit, everybody from the office went home, yet I had 50 guys out on job sites every day with hundreds of other construction workers. I found myself going out in the field because I was feeling guilty. The CEOs, project managers, controllers, bookkeepers, they’re all working from home, but yet we’re expecting these guys to go to a job site every single day.
It goes back to what I was saying earlier, letting everybody know that you’re invested, too. If my people are going out there and putting their lives on the line being exposed to others, then as a CEO, I’ve got to do the same thing. I think coming out of this, we’re going to be a stronger company. We’re going to be a closer company. People are going to work harder because they know that we care about them.