(This is a contributed post)
When you run a business, your day-to-day life is essentially one long learning curve. Like Warren Buffet, you treat every book you read as a potential resource. Every news article can yield valuable insights into the business landscape. Even reading your competitor’s blog posts can be a useful window into the state of your industry and how your competitors are adapting to changes pertaining to the technological, economic and (of course) consumer behaviour. Times of crisis can also be great teachers. When we are forced to react to a crisis, it can bring out the best in us… while also teaching us the bad habits that we’ve lapsed into.
As far as crises go, you’d be hard pressed to find a more instructive one for businesses than the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus has proven an unprecedented reminder of business best practices, and what can happen to our enterprises when we forget them. Here we’ll look at some fundamental lessons in best practice of which the pandemic has proven a devastatingly apt reminder.
Agility has never been more important
The agile model is a neat encapsulation of all the reasons why agility is so important in business in general. Let’s take a moment to compare agile frameworks to a traditional waterfall framework. In a waterfall framework, testing is a summative exercise carried out towards the end of the process. It essentially tells developers whether they’re ready to begin operations or whether they need to return to the drawing board.
An agile framework, on the other hand is far more iterative and responsive. Testing is woven into the development process rather than being tacked on at the end. In an agile framework, it’s much easier to perceive potential hurdles and deal with them in a timely fashion.
In business, it’s easy to fall into an operational rhythm. Your hands get so full of the day-to-day that it becomes hard to be proactive. Thus, when a crisis like a global pandemic comes along, it can remind you just how prepared you are. However, when you’re always analyzing, testing and adapting your operational models, you can react with much greater speed and aplomb to all kinds of crises.
Adapt or die
There’s no two ways about it. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have forced many businesses to make great, sweeping changes to their operational models in order to meet the needs of an economy that has changed enormously virtually overnight. Restaurants, for instance, have had to become purveyors of home-delivered cuisine. Retailers have had to channel much more of their energies into e-commerce without income from their physical premises.
If your business model used to involve groups of people occupying the same space, you’re going to have to make significant changes even as the economy starts to grind slowly back into action and more businesses are reopening their doors.
You might need to move parts of your operation outdoors to better accommodate social distancing. Movie exhibitors, for instance might want to consider investing in beanbag seating for moonlight cinemas. You’ll have to have clear floor markers in place for your retail premises and ensure that surfaces like door handles and elevator call buttons are cleaned rigorously. You’ll need to provide hand sanitizing gel for anyone who needs it.
Still, if you have the will, the imagination and the capacity to adapt, you’ll still be able to thrive in the “new normal” business climate. And your customers will think of you all the more fondly for it.
Which brings us to…
Every customer matters
It’s easy for businesses to take their customers for granted. It’s easy to presume their loyalty. But the instant you get complacent, you can expect to lose ground to your competitors. In the current climate, consumer confidence is low. Many of your customers will have lost a significant proportion of their income. Some may even have lost their jobs. As such, they’ve become thriftier than ever. Of course that doesn’t mean that they’re not spending money. But it does mean that they’re being much more discriminate about where, when and how often they spend it.
However much consumer trust you’ve built up over the years, you can’t afford to take any of it for granted. Every customer matters, now more than ever. It’s time to re-engage your customers and build a stronger relationship with your brand.
There are lots of different ways you might do this;
Your employees are incredible… and you can’t afford to take them for granted!
Finally, taking good care of your workforce is an essential part of business best practice. It’s easy to take your employees, like your customers, for granted. Especially when things are going well. However, in times of crisis, businesses can experience a sobering reminder of just how reliant they are upon the skills, expertise and wisdom of their employees.
Now’s the perfect time to thank them for their patience, diligence and adaptability thus far in the crisis. Give them flexibility. Allow them to work from home if they want to or divide their time between the office and home. Take steps to make them feel safe and valued. Ensure that they all have access to training and professional development.
Your employees are awesome. It’s time to show them that you know it!