Regardless of the industry, there is no doubt that COVID-19 has transformed global and American business practices. Some changes have been minor, while others have the potential to be lasting and, perhaps, groundbreaking.
According to a June 2020 global economic outlook survey, global GDP is expected to contract 5.2% in 2020, the biggest global drop in decades. The only certainty for now is that everything is fluid, and companies that want to survive must adapt.
For my business, the impact of COVID-19 meant relying more on automation. As we tried to meet the growing demands of e-commerce, we also had to contend with labor shortages in the warehouses.
For some businesses, that means applying traditional brick and mortar operations to virtual platforms like Facebook Live and FaceTime, and doing what every business wants to do: adapt and find a new way to stand out. Adapting to sudden change is a big demand for established business leaders, but it is also necessary.
Give up full control
At their core, great business leaders are problem solvers. Even in unexpected circumstances, the basic principle of problem solving remains the same: identify the symptoms, diagnose the root causes, and then find ways to fix the problem at the root or alleviate the symptoms.
In this regard, dealing with the fallout from COVID-19 should be no different than any other hurdle; there are just more symptoms to deal with. It can mean a lot more uncertainty about what’s doable and what isn’t, a daunting prospect, but not overwhelming.
When my business started to grow, we were faced with all kinds of uncertainties. The vision of where we wanted to be didn’t always match what the market wanted. It was sometimes difficult. Those early days taught our team that change is a force to be embraced rather than weather. It’s a lesson I took with me in the pandemic, and it’s a lesson I think a business of any size or level needs to learn if they are to come out of the pandemic better than before.
Make it easier to welcome change
A more avant-garde approach is within the reach of every business, provided that business leaders implement the following strategies:
1. Listen to your customers.
It is no exaggeration to say that the way you meet the needs of your customers during a crisis will have lasting effects on your business. To retain, or even expand, your customer base, you need to do more than lip service to customers facing the effects of the pandemic. You really have to listen to people’s concerns and wants so that you can meet your customers where they are. Customers agree, as 52% of consumers said they believe companies should respond to customer feedback.
At present, care and connection should play a major role in the customer experience. Small business owners need to stay in regular contact with their customers so that they can quickly implement changes to meet their expectations in this new normal. Once you’ve adjusted to current customer needs, focus on what you can proactively do to facilitate rapid adoption of future changes, reflecting on how the customer experience will definitely change after COVID. . As a small business, know that your most successful changes are very likely to result from customer interactions and insights.
2. Find people who are willing to work hard and challenge the status quo.
Intelligence, experience and passion – these are the qualities you should look for above all else when hiring employees to guide your business into the future. It might sound simple enough, but intelligence and passion can’t really be gleaned from a resume, and even the experience is very different on paper than it is in real life.
This is why it is essential to go beyond a list of qualifications when looking for people who can help run a business in troubled waters. Dive into the details during interviews to push candidates to show you what they really know. You don’t even have to know much about the topic to ask insightful questions. What matters is to better understand how candidates approach problems, to see how well they can explain their processes, and to see how willing they are to push back the status quo to get things done.
Small businesses, in fact, have the option to consider abandoning the traditional resume altogether. Ask potential employees to take an extensive survey of questions that cover both technical questions and general information, such as the candidate’s preferred blogger. The goal is to find people with the qualities the business really needs, rather than what conventional wisdom says it needs.
3. Implement minimum viable product development.
A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is essentially a work in progress that shows you immediate value. The goal is to launch a product quickly and with minimal development costs to see how it works in the real world. From there, you can quickly iterate on the product based on customer feedback.
Whether or not you subscribe to the lean methodology as a whole, MVPs are the perfect way for small businesses to determine which avenues are worth exploring before spending too much time and money on the wrong things.
4. Embrace Seeding to Keep Your Business Agile.
It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the best thing you can do during a crisis is to avoid outward investment and take a growth-priming approach. According to a study on small business trends, 77% of small businesses before the money for their businesses with money from their own savings accounts and personal checks. Limited resources force you to be on your guard, to adapt to whatever comes next. Staying lean can also give you clarity that helps you focus on the efforts that matter and drive growth.
The lack of a safety net means that everything has to be done more efficiently and within accelerated deadlines. This means that vanity projects go down the drain. Leaning can seem like a lot of pressure, especially when there is so much going on already, and it is. But it’s the right kind of pressure to help you not only weather the storm, but also grow into a more agile, focused business, ready to take on whatever comes its way.
5. Encourage company-wide transparency.
A large company will have a lot of people with their own specialized expertise. This is great because these are the people who will know your products inside and out. But specialization can also lead to a kind of tunnel vision that prevents experts from seeing outside their own departments. If these experts are not transparent with other departments about the work they are doing, sharing both their successes and their obstacles, business operations can collapse.
I have experienced this breakdown in communication a few times which has underlined the importance of transparency for me. In one case, our operations team was not fully tracking the number of temporary workers who showed up for work versus the number requested. For this team, it didn’t matter – they were able to do everything with the people they were given. But that was important information for HR, as it’s HR’s job to manage a below-average turnout before it becomes a serious issue across the business.
It can be easy to get caught up in your own piece of the puzzle and forget how it fits into the rest of the business. But 87% of employees say they want to work for transparent companies, and that clarifies one thing: it is important that others see what you are doing so that they can understand how it might affect them.
Change is inevitable; it doesn’t normally happen that quickly. If you want to overcome the obstacles that seem to arise almost daily during the pandemic period, you have to embrace the change and be confident that the process will take you safely to the other side. This will not only help you survive this pandemic more, but also prepare for the next crisis when it inevitably happens.