A Guest Post by Noah Rue
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely upset the apple cart — metaphorically speaking, of course. The disruptions caused by the virus have rippled through every sector of the economy. Some companies, such as Zoom or Slack, have seen a tremendous spike in business as their goods have come into the limelight. Of course, for every success story, there are many other companies that have found their operations crippled, such as cruise lines, gyms, theme parks, and airlines.
Regardless of whether you’ve found your average business activities positively or negatively affected by the ongoing crisis, it’s essential that you consider the future in a new light. Here are a handful of simple yet effective changes that businesses great and small can implement in order to either get back on course or further capitalize on their current success in the wake of the world-changing coronavirus pandemic.
Embrace the New Normal
This may sound simple, predictable, and even cliché, but it’s critical to bring up first nevertheless. The “new normal” is a nebulous concept that vaguely refers to whatever the post-COVID future may look like. Many business leaders have shrugged off the idea, focusing on how and when they can return to the normality of the past. Except the truth is, no matter what happens, that particular brand of normalcy will likely never return.
Instead, leaders must boldly embrace the concept of the new normal, whatever it may be for their particular position, industry, or scenario. Now, it’s important to clarify that this isn’t referring to a formula or a series of activities so much as a mindset. Welcoming the new normal should be something that affects all of your decisions.
For instance, if you own a small-town restaurant, you should be considering how to set up permanent curbside delivery and online ordering options. Basically, anything that can help you serve your customers no matter how long the current state of affairs might continue.
If you can operate with the understanding that many sectors of the economy are going to naturally change in the near future, you’ll be in the optimum position to take advantage of the new normal as it unfolds.
Steer Into Digital Marketing
Digital marketing was a growing trend long before the first coronavirus case was recorded. However, at this point, companies great and small must learn to adopt digital marketing activities more comprehensively than simply creating a basic website or setting up a Facebook account.
Fortunately, there are many ways that digital marketing can be easily, affordably, and effectively embraced including:
- Building and maintaining a user-friendly e-commerce website.
- Creating a company blog with actionable information that provides value for readers.
- Using pay per click (PPC) advertising to reach potential customers on social media and through search engines.
- Setting up social media communities to build your brand and provide quality customer service.
- Virtualizing events, moving resources online, and shifting your digital marketing message to resonate with your pandemic-afflicted customers as they interact with your business online.
If you can create an effective digital marketing strategy for your company, you’ll be able to better maintain your business even in a social-distancing-focused world.
Focus on Your Customer Experience
While steering into digital marketing is important, it won’t do you much good if you don’t focus on your customers in the process. Approaching your business activities with a customer-centric mindset is always important, but never more so than now. As customers wade through a sea of fear, doubt, and uncertainty, it’s important that you shift your focus to meet your customers where they are. You can do this by:
- Changing or tailoring your product offerings to better meet their needs, like offering a way to order online.
- Providing extra resources through an online blog.
- Offering promotions and discounts that help encourage engagement and establish you as a business that puts the customer first.
- Focusing on providing genuine solutions geared towards generating happy customers.
If you can succeed in empathizing and prioritizing your customers, you’ll have a much better chance of maintaining success in spite of the ongoing pandemic.
Avoid Non-Essential Costs
While most of the things addressed so far have revolved around outward-facing, customer-oriented interactions, there are several ways that you can pivot within your internal activities as well. To begin, look for ways to cut non-essential costs.
This can be anything from getting rid of a coffee bar at your sparsely-attended office space to downsizing the physical space itself … or even eliminating it entirely. With many organizations shuttering their physical doors permanently in the wake of COVID-19, coworking spaces are seeing resurgences — with new standards in place — in order to continue to foster community and productivity.
Encouraging employees to utilize coworking spaces can put the onus of certain overhead costs on the employees who wish to work in a more traditional office space. One of the top trends in coworking spaces for the end of 2020 and into 2021 is creating spaces that are focused on different niches, such as pet owners or parents. By revamping their own physical spaces to include a six-foot boundary between each desk or station, coworking spaces can offer both employers and employees cost-effective solutions to production needs.
Accept Remote Work
If there’s one aspect of the new normal that has already become a reality, it’s the concept of remote work. Now, to be clear, not all work is remote in nature. Farmers must work in the fields. Food must be prepared in a restaurant kitchen. Stores need to be stocked by hand and cash registers must be manned.
However, many companies (or at least departments within companies) can easily shift to a fully-remote basis, and the change shouldn’t be resisted by business owners. On the contrary, by accepting and making the best of the new reality of remote work, you can give your business a boost. This naturally increases the talent pool that you can choose from, offers a welcome perk to your employees, and allows you to cut more non-essential costs related to maintaining a physical workspace.
A few suggestions for things to keep in mind as you shift to remote work include:
- Setting up clear remote-work guidelines delineating things like what software should be used and proper protocols for communication.
- Detailing clear procedures for things like getting an e-signature or obtaining an online notarization.
- Setting clear expectations for your remote staff’s conduct in the virtual workplace.
- Providing remote work resources for things like cybersecurity or caring for your mental health when working from home.
By accepting the importance of remote work in the new business world, you free yourself up to make the best of your physically scattered staff as you all adjust to the new remote work-driven world. If employees are using a combination of coworking and home spaces for their remote work, you can use various software solutions to keep everyone connected. This keeps your staff from losing cultural connections that may have been fostered prior to COVID.
Empower Your Staff
Empowerment goes hand in hand with remote work, which is why, if you’re going to have your staff work remotely, it’s essential that you avoid the tendency to become a micromanager. Even if you were hands-off in the past, it’s important to consider this possibility. Remote work can be exacerbating for a project manager, as you’re unable to oversee your employees as they labor. Sure, you can set up appointments and assess work through shared documents, but at the end of the day, significant amounts of time are often spent trusting that everyone is working on their own. And the thing is, that’s okay.
Rather than trying to micromanage everything, pivot your business’s operations into one that purely focuses on results by empowering your workforce. Make it clear to your employees that you trust them to accomplish high-quality work on time, that it’s their responsibility to communicate as much as it’s yours, and that you genuinely want to see them involved in problem-solving and brainstorming.
In addition, instead of abusing the fact that your employees are “always available” from their home offices, encourage them to create boundaries and strive for work-life balance. Demonstrate how to unplug regularly by setting appropriate expectations for communication and occasionally taking breaks to indulge in simple, stress-free fun — or even do nothing for a bit. This will encourage your employees to take the initiative, control their own schedules, and invest themselves in their empowered professional lives.
While streamlining existing operations is always a good idea, the changes shouldn’t stop there. As you empower your employees and encourage them to get involved, it’s imperative that you stress the innovation factor as well. From employer to employee, leadership to staff, everyone in your company should be encouraged to innovate whenever possible.
Many companies have already used an innovative mindset in order to adjust their operations to thrive in the current coronavirus-ridden business landscape. Some have shifted to manufacturing respirator masks and other protective equipment. Others have looked for ways to give back to their communities (and bolster their company image in the process) such as donating meals to those in need or even helping the elderly with their laundry.
As you look for small ways to shift your company’s focus, remember to encourage creativity amongst your staff. It doesn’t matter where someone is on the corporate ladder, they should feel empowered and heard as they come up with ideas to keep your company at the cutting-edge of your industry — whether said industry remains the same over time or not.
Finding Big Success with Small Changes
Streamlining internal activity, adopting digital marketing, focusing on the consumer, and encouraging innovation are all excellent ways to pivot your business into the best possible position for the uncertain times ahead. None of these require large-scale changes or prohibitive investments.
And yet, they collectively focus on the desire to get rid of excess and waste while simultaneously shifting operating procedures to line up with the new normal. If you can do that in small yet effective doses, you’ll be able to help your company survive and thrive, no matter what challenges you face in the future.