What it Takes to Run a Business During a Pandemic
A pandemic is an extreme situation that affects every part of our lives, including our work lives. But to ensure that your business survives these tough times, you need to go back to basics. The same values and skills that helped you build your company are often the same one that will help you weather this storm.
Dig into the changes you’re experiencing by practicing flexibility, data-driven decision making, and communicating with purpose.
1. Show you care by being flexible
Your team probably already adapts quickly to change, but in today’s environment, you need to lean into flexibility. Employees will need to work from home, care for family and loved ones, or to take time off to recuperate if they get sick. These circumstances will require flexibility from everyone in the company.
Your policies on where and when work happens may look different than before when everyone had stable child care. Your employees may need to cover for colleagues at times. Your whole team will need to reprioritize the work that needs to get done, and everyone will need to give their colleagues a break and some grace.
Grant your employees (and yourself!) flexibility in your expectations. Reconsider whether work has to be done in the office, or even during traditional office hours. The traditional 9-5 directly clashes with remote learning schedules, making it hard for parents of young children to focus during that time. Try working out alternate schedules or even shifting employee responsibilities to help employees who are struggling. It’s important that work gets done. It’s not important when that work happens.
2. Use data to drive your decisions
If there is one constant for 2020, it’s change. The marketplace, customer expectations, and business practices have shifted in nearly every industry. Those companies that have survived and thrived are those that have reacted quickly and adapted to the changing markets.
The best thing that you can do right now is get to know how your target customer is changing. Look at the data that shows you where buying habits have changed, and try to understand why those habits have changed and how you can make up the losses.
- Have your customers cancelled their subscriptions? Consider offering a discount to keep that consistent income
- If one of your popular product offerings has dropped in sales, consider the context of previous purchases. How has that context changed, and what other products might you promote to accommodate that change?
- Did your business thrive on walk-in traffic? Use your social media and email newsletters to promote specials, advertise your safe product pick-up policy, or offer alternate products that more closely fit the customer’s current
While you may be able to make some of these decisions based on gut feeling, consider using the reports built into your customer relationship management (CRM) software, or look them up in your website’s dashboard. This information will help you better understand your customer at any time, not just during the pandemic.
3. Take the time to communicate clearly
When the rest of the world feels shaky and uncertain, it’s an employer’s job to provide employees with the information they need to continue to do their jobs at peak performance. By communicating early and often with your team, they’ll feel more secure and know that you have their best interests in mind.
Consider opening up several channels of communication with your employees. While you don’t have to have a one-on-one meeting with every employee to show you care, consider adopting some mass communication options that give a personal touch. These may serve different purposes and have different tones. Try some of these:
- HR newsletter to communicate policy changes and regulatory updates
- Formalized communication channels for individual contributors to share concerns with their managers during one-on-one meetings
- Question of the week for the whole company to answer in the messaging tool or break room
I send out a weekly CEO video where I talk about recent wins, any important news, and give a shoutout to employees who have done stellar work in the past week. This is a great way to communicate directly with employees and improve morale.
4. Look for opportunities to innovate
The businesses that will succeed in this pandemic will see the changes not as an obstacle, but as an opportunity. Look to your employees for ideas on how to innovate, build new audiences, and pivot your plans.
Rob Bellenfant is the founder and CEO of TechnologyAdvice, a company he started in his dorm room at University of Tennessee in 2006 and has grown into a full-service B2B media provider that connected over three-quarters of a million technology buyers with the best technology brands in 2019.