Businesses have always faced challenges of one sort or another, but few of us have experienced anything like what we’ve seen in 2020 with COVID-19, social unrest and an unsteady economy coming at us all at once.
Now, the new challenge for so many businesses is trying to lure back customers and clients after offices and stores have shut down. The added wrinkle: Consumers changed their habits to adapt to the COVID-19 shutdown, using delivery services more, dining at home rather than dining out, and turning more and more to online shopping. They may ditch some of those new habits over the coming months. But they may also hang onto some of them – or even develop new habits we haven’t thought of yet.
For business leaders, that means a willingness to adapt to new ways of doing business will be more important than ever. Yes, businesses need to have a plan as they work to return their operations to something approximating normal, but they also need to remain flexible and willing to change that plan as the circumstances around them change.
At the same time, all of this will need to be done while following CDC guidelines and taking into account the concerns of employees and customers.
I’m a big believer in making decisions based on facts and data. But if you don’t stay on top of what has been a very fluid situation, you could end up making decisions based on information that is already outdated.
That’s why, going forward, I believe businesses need to:
- Think long-term even as you address short-term needs. When challenges are as difficult as the ones we face today, you can get caught up in a “survive-the-week” mindset, and that’s understandable. After all, you aren’t going to survive the month if you don’t survive the week, and you aren’t going to survive the year if you don’t survive the month. So, certainly, businesses need to make some things happen now to see them through the crisis. But your vision can’t stop there. As businesses ride out the difficulties in the short-term, they also need to create a plan that will help them prosper over the long haul.;
- Hope things will improve, but be prepared for the worst. We all hope for a quick-and-easy recovery – but also know we can’t count on that. With 41 million people who want to work out of work, the path back to normal will require a good deal of effort, thought and reflection. Most people are predicting the recession will continue at least into early 2021. Some businesses aren’t going to be able to reopen at all, and that includes big retail chains and local mom-and-pop stores. That’s going to have a ripple effect in the economy. So, as much as everyone may desire a quick turnaround, it’s still best to make your plans based on the idea that the economic downturn will last a long while.
- Stay optimistic. These are the most challenging circumstances any business has faced in at least the last 50 years. Despite that, business leaders and their employees must avoid becoming dejected and or let an atmosphere of despondency rule their feelings and emotions. I always tell my team that I’m a half-glass full kind of guy. When you’re going through tough times it’s better to have an optimistic attitude than a pessimistic attitude.
Certainly, I hope for the sake of my business and for the economy as a whole that we have already seen the bottom, and from here on out things will get better – even if better comes more slowly than we all would like. With that said, no one has a playbook for this, so we have to call a few audibles here and there.
But the businesses where leaders and employees all work together, plan carefully, and try to keep a positive attitude are the ones most likely to emerge in good shape when this is over.
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