By now, we all have been living through the realities of the coronavirus and its severity, feeling elation when the cases drop in number and anxiety when they start to rise. If this disease follows a similar pattern of the 1918 flu pandemic, the foreseeable future will be one of recurring outbreaks, tempered by controlled reaction. Given the global interconnectedness of business, systematic and cooperative measures for public health could lead to a “next normal” of improved economic health as well.
Steps to help mitigate disruption to your business
Being able to pivot or pause based on the changing situation can help strengthen the resiliency of your business. Challenged by shelter-in-place orders, organizations are adopting workarounds made possible by a wave of digital innovation and ingenuity.
1. Strengthen your virtual presence. E-commerce and alternative payment methods enable all types of businesses to readily shift in-person or in-store operations to continuing their relationships with vendors and customers. Besides generating immediate revenue, focusing on your online capabilities right now can create greater customer engagement, goodwill, loyalty, and potentially lead to future sales.
2. Monitor and manage risks. While a boon, technology is not without its hazards. Scams, fraudulent sites, and phishing emails are ramping up1, and system resilience is even more important in a society that increasingly operates remotely. Trust and safety matter. Beyond financial loss, you could seriously erode customer relationships and damage your business’ reputation. Another risk to reputation and business endurance is the virus itself. Encourage responsible behavior by those who still interact in person – such as team members, contractors, and customers. Follow CDC and local guidelines for your industry, and be ready to take swift action in the case of an outbreak.
3. Broaden your circle of influence. Diversity and inclusion are more than buzzwords. Studies show that companies, which encompass team members at all levels with various backgrounds and characteristics — gender, race, nationality, ethnicity, generational, etc. — tend to have a competitive edge2. Especially when dealing with a situation unparalleled in our lifetimes, going beyond your own circle and comfort level can lead to solutions you might not have envisioned.
4. Cope with contingencies. Although you may already have business continuity and disaster recovery plans in place for normal times, it’s important to continually review them to ensure they still cover today’s extraordinary circumstances. Identify possible scenarios that might stress critical business functions and develop strategies to handle them. In addition, explore funding programs offered by the Federal Reserve to support businesses and their employees until the economy stabilizes.
5. Reimagine and reshape. Think about the products and services in demand now and those that will be essential or useful during the transition. Based on your observations, examine your business from your customers’ perspective and consider ways you might shift or expand it to better serve their needs. As the virus ebbs and flows throughout the world, many individuals are focused more on the basics than frills.
1“COVID-19 Outbreak Prompts Opportunistic Wave of Malicious Email Campaigns” by Vijay Thaware, Symantec Enterprise Blogs/Threat Intelligence, April 3, 2020
2“Diversity wins: How inclusion matters” by Sundiatu Dixon-Fyle, Kevin Dolan, Vivian Hunt, and Sara Prince, McKinsey & Company, May 19, 2020