Contributed by: Julianna Bevan
Businesses are facing greater challenges than ever before in 2020. The global pandemic has resulted in an economic crisis that has left many companies scrambling to find ways to stay afloat. And, in some cases, change their basic practices from top to bottom. It can be immensely difficult, but at this point adaption is a matter of survival for most businesses.
This can all sound quite negative, but the businesses that succeed will likely be the ones that view this unprecedented situation as an opportunity. If you’re a business owner, now is the time to survive the current crisis and give some thought to how to stay ahead of the curve. In the best of cases, you may be able to navigate 2020 while simultaneously positioning your business to be more successful and more resilient moving forward.
Below are some of our tips for how to bring about this kind of result.
1. Switch to Remote Work
The most universal change we’ve seen from businesses dealing with the coronavirus fallout is a switch to remote work. While there are now some parts of the world that are “going back to work,” so to speak, it is still widely considered unsafe for employees. It’s recommended that they shouldn’t be packed together in an office environment. The initial closing of physical work environments forced businesses of all kinds to quickly shift toward remote working, or else risk halting operations altogether.
Whether or not your business took this step back then, it’s an important concept to consider moving forward. It may well be a while before offices are allowed to re-open in some places. Additionally, it will be even longer before employees feel fully comfortable in an office. Many companies have already floated the idea of turning remote work into an indefinite practice, allowing employees to continue contributing from a distance.
This would be a wise thing to consider for businesses looking to get ahead of the curve. If you stick to a strict reopening plan, you risk experiencing a rocky transition. Even worse, you may encounter future closures if coronavirus infections continue to surge. By allowing remote work, you can prepare for future upheavals and keep employees comfortable. Maybe you can even make your company more appealing to potential hires.
Our recent article ‘How to Switch to a Remote Workforce Fast’ can help you with a few tips regarding how to go about taking this step. Overall, it comes down to setting up tools for communication and collaboration, re-framing expectations and goals around remote contributions, and figuring out an approach that is flexible without sapping productivity.
2. Plan Your Return to Normal
This idea ties into the previous one, in that ongoing remote work can actually substitute for any “return to normal”. Whether or not you’re considering switching to full-time remote work, it’s essential to have a plan. Or, what the World Economic Forum calls a “lockdown exit strategy”. When lockdowns are fully lifted, employees are going to look for guidance and expect safety. It will be up to your business to provide those things or else risk losing ground to competitors. There isn’t necessarily a “right way” to return to normal. What matters most is having a clear plan that encompasses safety precautions, employee comfort, and productivity. With such a plan in place, you can position your business to ramp up significantly as society returns to normal. Additionally, the experience of planning ahead this way may just help you prepare for other disruptive future changes.
3. Keep Generating Leads
If there’s one thing every business ought to have kept up during lockdowns, it’s outreach. While an interruption like what we’ve experienced in 2020 can disrupt all sorts of different business operations, there’s no reason it has to affect communication. Business owners that have realized this will have had the opportunity to continue networking and generating leads, if not for current work, then for future opportunities.
If you haven’t been doing this, now’s the time to start! Working on generating leads now will give you a chance to line up the business that will help you thrive as things begin to return to “normal”.
4. Start Up an Emergency Fund
In addition for preparing for the return to normal, now is also a good time to consider your business’s preparedness for future interruptions. Naturally, we hope and expect that we won’t face another crisis like this one. However, lessons learned in dealing with this pandemic may come in handy for any number of future incidents. For example: a two-week shutdown due to a natural disaster, an isolated financial crash, or even something internal, such as the sudden loss of an important client.
One way to prepare for these kinds of disruptive events is to build up an emergency fund for your business. Given that you’ll need to allocate business revenue in a responsible and transparent manner, this simply involves finding a way to start setting money aside, a little bit at a time. That way you can start to build up a stash that you can use the next time misfortune strikes — whether that means a fresh wave of the coronavirus this winter, or an internal matter years down the line.
What’s important here is carefully defining what the fund is for and when you might use it. An emergency fund guide posted on Marcus poses three questions to ask before dipping into the fund. These questions are whether or not the expense is unexpected, whether or not it is necessary, and whether it requires urgent action. Criteria like these can guard your emergency fund against careless or hasty use and help you to ensure that you’re building up a true hedge against misfortune. You never know when a fund like this might help you to keep employees paid during a rough time, or make an adjustment that keeps your business afloat as others fail.
5. Build Up a Disaster Marketing Plan
Another good way to prepare for future interruptions in business is to set up a disaster marketing plan. This is something a lot of companies have famously struggled with in 2020. Basically, businesses have gone through a sort of awkward tug-of-war during the pandemic. They’re between acknowledging the pandemic and sympathizing with consumers while continuing to pitch products and services. In some cases, they’ve also had to do all of this as they battled their own internal uncertainty. They didn’t know what they could actually provide or how quickly they could do it.
Inc. provided some tips for marketing during Covid-19 specifically, and put together a nice blueprint for disaster marketing in general. During Covid-19 specifically, and put together a nice blueprint for disaster marketing in general. The article recommended determining what to offer, even if it means pivoting the focus of the business. Then, it essentially suggested that businesses should craft their marketing in such a way that passively acknowledges the crisis without exploiting it. For instance, a business might pull an ad that shows people in a dense crowd, or shaking hands. However, it doesn’t necessarily need to opt for the now all-too-common verbiage about “getting through unprecedented times.”
Making the Strategy
Those tips have to do with our current crisis, but they also speak to a strategy that businesses should keep in mind during any challenging time. The main takeaway is that it’s okay to pivot and it’s always a good idea to shape a marketing effort according to what consumers are experiencing — and what they might be wanting or needing as a result of it.
Following through on all of these tips won’t solve all of your business’s challenges in 2020. But it may well help you to weather the storm and prepare you to stay ahead of the curve, both as life gets back to normal and where future disruptions are concerned.
About the Author: Julianna Bevan is a business consultant with extensive experience in cooperate training. She works with both independent and multi-national companies to help streamline operations and improve employee efficiency. She is currently writing a book on leadership skills in the modern workplace.