6 types of valuable advice to turn challenges from the current crisis into fantastic business opportunities.
The coronavirus pandemic is one of those rare “black swan events” that come unexpectedly (even for experts) and have a massive destabilizing impact on global activity. The lockdown has revealed how unstable the world’s market economy can be with its missing links in supply chains, companies running out of cash, scared employees, and a sharp, dramatic shift towards online-only businesses. To survive the lockdown, entrepreneurs today need more vigilance and creativity than ever. The good news is that many high-profile American companies started or succeeded during the economic downturn such as, for example, Burger King, FedEx, General Motors, Disney, Uber, and Airbnb, to name a few. Here is a few valuable advice that will help you piggyback on the current crisis and turn challenges into fantastic business opportunities.
1. Solve the new needs
The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on people’s burning needs. To succeed, you need to scratch the current itch, not the before-pandemics one. Working from home, seeing a doctor, distance education for kids, buying food online, and overcoming boredom has become our new pains, and this is where your innovative approach is needed.
Analyze the trends of Google search terms (be they “micro-schools”, “Oxford vaccine Lancet” or even “create your own website free”) and think how your business can respond to these needs. Or, at least, this will give you invaluable insights into what people go through today. Ask yourself whether you can serve this need better than the alternatives.
Brick-and-mortar businesses (even restaurants), which suffer from coronavirus lockdown most, can succeed if they fully reimagine customer service rather than build on the old ground. If you’ve got a small business, think about your industry’s gap that big companies can’t fill and do it. Like, for example, small local food deliveries can come to the rescue where huge supermarkets fall short.
2. Be flexible to shift
Even if the lockdown regulations didn’t force you to close your business temporarily, chances are, the situation was hard on your cash flow. Rather than fret over the lost revenues, entrepreneurs need to keep a cool head, reconsider their business budgets, and tweak some of their operations. For example, if you sell computer equipment, the pandemic may have impacted your customer segment, shifting it from tech professionals to children or even retirees. They might need your products today to fill their gap in learning and communication. Although such customer shift requires only some minor tweaks in your products’ features, this will require a full reconsideration of your marketing messages and channels.
3. Stay honest and realistic
The worst thing you can do during this coronavirus downturn as a leader is to be in denial. Probably you don’t understand why it happened and don’t have answers on how to overcome this crisis, but it’s crucial to communicate the harsh facts to your team directly and honestly. Don’t become a preacher of blind optimism, but rather stay positive in every little challenge your business goes through. If your people feel your support and genuine participation in their hardships, they will trust you, and this trust will guide your business to better times.
4. Get wiser with your finances
If your budget isn’t as good today as before the pandemic, you are not alone. Many businesses struggle to at least break even. For others, things went into the red. To get back on track again, we need to do some painful things, such as cut unnecessary costs and save. The coronavirus downturn taught us how important emergency funds are. Who could predict such a global collapse, say, a year ago? Many entrepreneurs wish they had an emergency cash reserve to survive during the downturn, but they hadn’t. It’s still not too late to start building your emergency fund for the unforeseen future. Ideally, its capacity must be enough to cover your business expenses for three to six months. Another priority must be paying back your coronavirus crisis loans (if any) before you get stuck in debt for years to come.
5. Practice online team-building
During the work-from-home period, you must have noticed that your less motivated employees became less productive and even more demotivated (top-performers usually perform well in any work setting). It is a natural effect of home working that deprives an employee of such an important company culture and informal learning. Today, it is crucial to keep building your team virtually and help your people go through this uncertain time and stay productive, even working remotely. Get creative in connecting your employees using video conference tools or messengers and leverage one-on-one online meet-ups with your key employees to nurture team spirit.
6. Do something with that stress
As soon as you and your team realize that previous goals aren’t reachable anymore, anxiety emerges, and stress becomes your new norm. You need to understand (and communicate it to your team) that you don’t need those old goals. You can’t get back to that “old good” past, but you can get to an even better future using another roadmap. Reinvent your goals according to the current situation and – what is crucial – set more frequent checkpoints to help your people feel that positive movement. Try to envision what the new post-COVID era in your industry will look like and rush there. Recessions create challenges, but innovative and flexible businesses turn them into opportunities.
Stella Aldridge is a business consultant and a co-owner of a creative agency in Baltimore. As a consultant, she specializes in small businesses, including LLCs, Partnerships, and Not-for-Profit. Stella works directly and closely with business owners and other individuals on budget planning and saving strategies in times of crisis.