Times like these bring some of the most unique changes we will see in businesses. The dot-com age, 9/11, and the Great Recession of 2008 were major moments of regrouping, changing and coming out more positive in the end.
Now more than ever, leadership is essential for unifying businesses, especially as we face the COVID-19 pandemic.
I handled 2001 differently than I should have for my company. However, I learned from my mistakes and ended up leading us through the 2008 crisis more effectively. We ended up coming out stronger than ever as a business. It all came down to communication, involving my staff, using the right tools, and, above all, taking action.
The following is advice on how you can get through these times:
1. Remember that every problem is an unforeseen opportunity. Dare to be different and challenge the status quo.
Don’t think about what your business can’t do; think about everything you can do. Conduct events online, offer delivery services or find a way to provide new services virtually. Ask your customers what they need and bring it to them.
2. Be quick to pivot and change.
It’s amazing to see teams get involved and have a heightened sense of urgency in times of crisis. Engage them and let them be part of positive change.
3. Ask for help, listen to others, share best practices and act accordingly.
Businesses are now coming together to help out. Use virtual roundtables, webinars or conference calls to share and receive advice. During the Great Recession, I moved my desk, sat by my staff and listened to what they were saying. After all, my staff was the closest to our customers and key suppliers.
4. Create a plan that focuses on the five parts of business: financials, customers, innovation, productivity and your people. Capture the major initiatives and targets that will transform your business into a solutions provider for your customers.
A plan focuses and aligns your business to the items you want to change or enhance. Capture ways to improve any people or customer issues while focusing on innovation. Also, find ways to cut waste without necessarily cutting people. Gain insight into how you may be able to temporarily cut salary costs while communicating with those who may be impacted.
5. Act upon your 30/60/90-day forecast. Make sure your planning is focused on daily, weekly and monthly activities.
Don’t think of this as cost cutting, but a way to innovate and provide optimum value to customers. Remain transparent, share these activities, and make sure they are aligned to the business plan. Staff will appreciate that and will want to help where they can.
6. Establish must do/can’t miss action items and hold each other accountable.
Businesses need to change quickly. Keep moving the business forward by going through the process of creating or enhancing products, cutting waste, or redirecting roles. It’s important to enforce accountability and make sure everyone is doing what they said they were going to do. Align these action items to your finances so you know what the implications are before assigning them. This added accountability increases business velocity and helps your business prosper.
In addition, don’t forget about including your lending partners in your decision making. Cash preservation is so paramount during times like this. You are all in this together.
7. It’s encouraged to over communicate both formally and informally.
As you know, anxiety and uncertainty are at a high right now. Be consistent and openly communicate to your employees, customers, suppliers, and financial partners. Let them know what is going on and how they can help. Align every action and decision to your business plan so you know that everyone is focused on achieving the same plan.
Every problem is an unforeseen opportunity. Use this time to help your employees, customers and fellow businesses when it’s needed the most. U.S. Army General George S. Patton said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”
I wish you all the best as you navigate through these uncharted waters.