Absent the clairvoyance to accurately see into the future, it is difficult for businesses to plan for the unknown, especially in uncertain times. The situation constantly evolves, new behaviors and opinions form quickly, and numerous challenges as well as opportunities occur daily on a global scale.
Certain trends have dominated during the coronavirus pandemic:
- 40 percent to 60 percent of consumers indicate that they intend to stick to new digital products and services adopted during the pandemic. (1)
- Technology is thriving because of the options to work remotely, connect virtually (including work meetings, classes and medical appointments), order groceries from home, and deposit a check into a bank account. (2)
- Delivery services such as Amazon, UberEats, Shipt and Instacart have hit an all-time high level of popularity. (3)
- Consumers have been stock piling essential items for fear of supply chain disruptions and other issues that could render them unavailable.
- Many companies shifted to remote work and 60 percent of B2B decision-makers found that remote sales associates were “equally or more effective” than they were on-site. (4)
Building a Future-Proof Strategy During a Crisis
It is still possible to take proactive steps for success, even when the world is in a state of upheaval.
- Study the metrics. Compare events occurring now with events from the past such as the 2009 recession, the months that followed 9/11, or the Ebola outbreak, for example. What buying behaviors were prevalent then? What attitudes or feedback did your business, market and industry receive during those troubled times?
If you don’t have this information, now is the time to start collecting it to prepare for the future. If historic data is not available, studying information on the target industry, market as well as market leaders and competitors in your industry will provide insights.
- Evaluate competitors that are performing well and have survived difficult times. This information can be obtained from articles and financial reports published online. Companies that have been in business for decades generally survive for some reason other than luck or chance. If you have access to Dun and Bradstreet reporting data you’ll find extremely valuable information by looking through peaks and valleys which occur in financial data. Alternately, Zirra’s Automatic Memo can provide similar insights (free of charge) including those from private companies.
- Find out how leadership at other companies, ideally CEOs, successfully adapted their business strategies, leadership style, company culture, marketing efforts and products or services to survive and come out ahead. Books, interviews, TedTalks, video clips, and more all provide exceptional information.
Pro-tip: Don’t stop at just business leadership. Military leaders, high profile government officials, etc. can have some heart stopping moments during their time of leadership. Often small take-aways from big moments can make large (and profitable) transformations or prevent issues from happening later.
- Review the budget to determine if it is working effectively. Figure out if any changes should be made to it. This step is not necessarily specific to reducing costs. It can include cost containment and budget enhancements, as well.
- Explore where your organization might be “leaking.” Businesses often have small leaks that individually aren’t a big deal, however, collectively they can pose a massive problem. Much like a leaky boat, a few holes don’t matter if the weather is good. However, once there is a storm those leaks can add to the problems your business is already facing. For example:
- Ineffective leadership
- Toxic corporate culture
- Employee morale, productivity and engagement issues
- High employee turn-over
- High customer churn
- Nurture existing customers. Challenging times can cause stress and anxiety, leading to undesirable customer experiences and the loss of customers. Providing exemplary customer service and delivering on all promises will help remedy these issues. Businesses would be wise to do everything they can to differentiate themselves from competitors through high quality service as well as keeping customers informed.
Preparing for the Future: What to Consider
Organizations should diligently plan for the future even when they find themselves in high-pressure circumstances. Considering the following is imperative:
- Organizations need to establish new ideas that focus on the value of workers and their welfare. They will need to evolve to accommodate worker fears and concerns through modified healthcare/wellness programs, flexible options and/or alternative planning for workers at high risk or who care for dependents. Additionally, transparency with employees about concerns and empathy will be vital to corporate culture.
- Contingency plans for remote work or the option to work from home should be seriously considered. Businesses will need to shift the mindset from a full in-house workforce to one that is focused on health to leverage a strong workforce. Therefore, sending unwell workers home or encouraging ill workers to avoid coming in will become imperative to business agility.
- Regulatory changes may involve attention on workers who are economically impacted but aren’t able to work. This may mean changes to disability standards, family/medical leave, providing insurance options for organizations (and/or workers) to cover income loss, and/or options to close the gap between unemployment payments and lost earnings.
- Leaders will adapt to new workplace models that include ongoing interaction with remote workers. They will need to adjust communication styles to ensure teams and individuals feel connected, valued and are working toward the same goals/objectives. Collaborative environments and in-person connections will become even more valuable.
- Insurance, financials, and data should all be audited for any aspects that haven’t been factored into budgets, risk, security, recovery, etc. This may include additional insurance coverage requirements such as liability insurance should a worker become ill; coverage for key officers, managers or employees; and lost income insurance.
- As the need for technology increases, data and IT connectivity will become even more vital. A plan should be formulated for data security, back-up and recovery. Additionally, when working with technology providers, minimizing downtime will be a critical contract sticking point.
- Supply chain evaluation and vendor auditing will be vital. This may include considering 4 or more suppliers for the same brand (or like brand) product. Or, it may mean reading the fine print in contracts more closely. Factors such as buying limits, previous buying history, rationing and consumption lifecycle, and the ability to adjust quickly should demand rise may be more important than it has been in the past.
- Tactics and transparency for disinfecting, disclosing, and containing disease during a pandemic or other health crisis should be carefully controlled. Templates for release of information can be prepared as well as checklists of cleaning methodology and the plan for containment should be readied if not already available.
- Whether the matter at hand is product or service diversification, organizations will need to consider how existing infrastructure can be amplified or built. Factors to consider should include evaluation of the technology and services necessary to provide critical services.
Chaos does not have to win during uncertain times. With proper responses to the current situation and planning for the future, businesses can overcome the associated challenges and survive for many years after the crisis has passed.
Uncertain times call for creative thinking. Contact Gavel International to be inspired with solutions that connect and engage your people.
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