We are in unprecedented times. Everyone’s life and business has been affected both personally and professionally. At this point we have all been affected by Coronavirus COVID-19. For some of us, it has created an opportunity of growth, for others some sustainability and for others it has created devastation. As business leaders, we are facing and being challenged with adversity. The determining factor in surviving is how we handle the adversity.
The best way to move forward is to shift to our analytical minds and decipher the information around us by simplifying the constant bombardment of materials. Solid decisions are made from the balance of qualitative (emotions) vs. quantitative (economics) information. Sounds simple, right? How do I do this? Below you will find my mind mapping process that has been my constant guide in assisting me through managing adversities throughout my life, both personally and professionally. Over the last 30 years I have overcome cancer, Hurricane Katrina, and a major viral illness which left me temporarily blind, just to name a few. In each one, I felt times of hopelessness, loss of trust in humanity, and the fear of my future changing. Upon reflection, I realized that the adversities I experienced, created deep reflections that guided me to make some hard life changing decisions that I should have made before.
Changes occur when circumstances happen that impact your life and business. These are called crisis. There are two types of crisis: Event driven and Process driven. Both disrupt business and life as usual, however there is a distinct difference between the two. Event driven crisis (Manmade or Nature) follows an event/aftermath pattern like the Hurricane Katrina or the attack of 9/11. We are overtaken by the event and then left to recover. Most importantly, we know the event is over and we move to recovery mode immediately. Process driven event, on the other hand, follows a pattern of acceleration, apex, and deceleration. There is a beginning, middle and end that needs to be tracked, monitored and evaluated for the most optimum result. The importance in understanding the type of crisis we are in will determine our ability to make decisions, to navigate and to succeed in our future.
Coronavirus COVID 19 is a crisis event. So, what does that mean? While I believe the economy will turn around for long term growth in 12-18 months, I am realistic to know that the greatest challenge we all have, (Big or Small businesses ) is to balance our decision making of our re-entry of business based upon health/safety(qualitative) vs economics (quantitative). In all reality, I do not believe the economy will rebound for sustainability this year, but rather incremental growth based upon the viability of the success of re-entry, true measurements against the phases of re-entry and the consistent building of trust of your clients and employees. Entrepreneurs and businesses need to reposition themselves and their organizations by streamlining their expenses and making decisions on the infrastructure of their organizations. This is a time for spending with intent and purpose through all levels of your organization. This can be achieved by being honest with yourselves with the struggles that lie ahead and communicate openly and honestly with your employees, clients, potential customers and stakeholders (bank or investor).
Now is the time for action/change, not complacency:
1. Be open and honest with your customers and employees. Find common ground where you can strengthen your relationship by working together. Go the extra mile and give your services and/or products back to your employees, and the community, especially in arears of need. Show appreciation on all levels. Show patience and kindness in conjunction with strong decisions and leadership.
2. As an employee show understanding and appreciation for your organization by:
- Proactively making cuts on expenses that you impact (shows your understanding)
- Be appreciative of our organization
- Find ways that you can impact revenues by generating potential new customers
- Be self-directive and self-disciplined.
3. Embrace Change. It is ok to be scared. Calm your fears through education and knowledge.
4. Go left when others go right. Be different. Find your unique selling point
5. Invest in a downturn. Invest in people, education, real estate, improvements etc. that align with your new vision and core values.
The biggest challenge that that lies ahead for all businesses, is the decision of re-opening, of sustainability after re-opening, and your position in the market afterwards. When I am contemplating decisions and understanding, I navigate toward the resources I respect and learn from the most to gather my information. Through my research and a conversation I had with Michael Hecht (President & CEO of GNO Inc), I learned of a graph that summarizes perfectly the question I had concerning re-entry of businesses: health/safety(qualitative) vs economics (quantitative). This chart is one of the best that I have seen. Essentially, we cannot be paralyzed by fear of the unknown and this disease, but rather balance the impact of managing and mitigating the disease against economic viability until a vaccine is developed, implemented and tested. We must re-open with set guidelines in place that are adhered to, measure the impact of the disease against each phase, and make responsible decisions accordingly. The variable factor is to be socially responsible in the spread of the disease to both our employees and clients. How do we do that?
Re-Opening: The important component of re-opening is creating and relaying the groundwork of trust. Just as in a functional organization, the main foundation is trust. After a Crisis Process like Coronavirus COVID 19, people’s fear and emotions are elevated. As businesses, we must be careful not to elevate those fears, but rather decelerate those fears through actions, understanding, guidance and solid decisions. True fear paralyzes all.
1. Focus on the immediate future. Take proactive measures in rewriting our business plans and operations guidelines to meet the safety requirements concerning Coronavirus COVID 19. Present them to your employees. Meet each employee to understand their needs and concerns. Come to an understanding. Have plans in place should an employee or guest become infected.
2. Constantly monitor and track the impact of re-opening against the numbers concerning the virus. Specifically, study the numbers in your area, state, and region to determine if the numbers stayed the same, increased or decreased. If the numbers remained the same or decreased, continue to move forward with measured steps in expanding your re-opening strategy. Should the numbers have increased, you need to implement some changes and pivot to address the increased numbers and the safety of your employees and clients. Either way, this is a time of constant tracking, monitoring and pivoting. Information is power. If analyzed correctly and steps are implemented, even if minor declines happen, your business will be manageable, and you can recover. If you chose to ignore the information, you will erode at the trust you are beginning to rebuild with both your employees and clients.
3. Do we need to pivot as a business? Are our products and services still meeting the needs of our clients? Do we understand how our clients’ needs have changed? Remain nimble. Shore up your financials. Spend effectively and wisely. Get rid of waste on all levels. Effective and efficient spending is paramount.
Sustainability after re-opening: You have created the foundation of the re-opening, you now want to maintain and set the groundwork for future growth. What should I do?
1. Analyze in depth your financials from the re-opening period. Ask yourselves these questions:
i. Where did most of my revenues come from? What were the profit margins? Is this a long-term or short-term solution for immediate needs or long-term needs? Can I maintain or grow this service or product once the pandemic has been managed?
ii. Did I see new opportunities that could expand our current product line or services? What would be the investment vs. the return?
iii. Will I be able to obtain the type of workforce that I need?
i. Continue to streamline expenses through lessons learned in doing business during this difficult time.
ii. Spend with intent and vision.
iii. Invest in your people. Do you have the right people? In the right places?
iv. Understand the effective use of technology in all aspects of your business
2. Continue to watch the economy. Where can I position my company to thrive in the new growth? Could I be a player or a market leader? Could I form strategic alliances or partnerships? How could my company be different? What is my unique selling point?
3. Continue to monitor the status of the epidemic. The Coronavirus COVID 19 has hit the apex of the curve, and we are on the downside of the curve, are we continually going down? Are people’s new behaviors affecting my business? Is this a short term or long-term behavioral change? Will I need to make improvements to my company to meet these changes?
Position in the market for future growth: In my opinion sustainable positioning in your markets will not happen until after a vaccine is developed, implemented and tested. From the resources that I have been following, we are looking at 12-18 months. Once a proven vaccine is in place for Coronavirus, COVID 19, the public will begin to have trust again. You will have earned both your employees and clients trust by the solid, data driven decisions in running your business. Both your employees and clients will have to go on with their lives knowing a precautionary choice in taking a vaccine for Coronavirus COVID19 is available.
In this day of information overload, we are fortunate to have so much data available to us at our fingertips. We have the choice of impowering ourselves with pertinent knowledge, both factual and opinion driven. As leaders, we must make hard decisions when things become challenging. We must remove ourselves from the noise and decide where do we need to lead our organizations going forward. It is in times like these that our understanding of basic business concepts is essential. We must do what is best for the organization. By achieving this, we will take care of our people. Adversity and change create tenacity, strength and longevity. Adversity forces us to deal with situations we have chosen to ignore. Embracing and accepting change will help us fine tune our organizations to become more resilient for future endeavors.
As stated earlier, I have been through many adversities and life changing moments. The one consistent trait in my entire life was the core values that my parents instilled in me as a child that I use to this day. Education, knowledge and experience are the keys to life that should never be taken for granted or wasted; treat all people with mutual, earned respect; be grateful and always think how your actions affect others first. I am thankful for the adversities that have come my way, for I would not be the person I am today, if I had not experienced them. My intent is to share with you some of the knowledge I have gained through experience both personally and professionally. Yes, we are faced with changes, challenges and choices. Rather than choose to live in sorrow and despair, I choose to find hope and optimism, only experience sorrow and despair, and embrace the new changes for opportunities and growth in my path. The choice is yours!