There’s not many businesses who can say they were prepared for the situation we’re in today. A rainy day fund we may have, but a strategy for a Global pandemic? Mere months ago it would have seemed like something for tinfoil hat wearers, not CEOs to worry about. Nevertheless, here we are. And from this time of lockdown will surely follow a huge period of uncertainty for our industry, along with many others.
Like us, many business owners and senior leaders will have spent the past few weeks discussing how to keep teams, clients and their suppliers happy and healthy over the period. But beyond that, what can we do to ensure that we come out the other side as strong as possible?
Take Care of People
First and foremost in times of uncertainty and worry, we must reach out and ensure that those around us are coping. Putting work aside at first, safety and comfort take priority. For us, this meant offering colleagues and clients a choice in what flexible approach to work they took. Through a personalised approach you can feel sure that everyone is not only financially secure, but emotionally prepared for whatever may come, which is difficult when no one knows yet what is coming.
It’s important as a business to know your role, which should ideally be more than that of a place of work. To foster a community spirit that people feel loyalty to, employees and partners must feel they can approach your business when the chips are down. And receive empathy and honesty in return.
As we come out of this period, it will be important to ensure that staff and clients alike are allowed to do so at their own pace. The precise mechanics of the end of this period remains to be seen, but a positive, supportive approach will pay back dividends in confidence in your business.
Embrace The At-Home
For seventy7, we rely on and value a thriving office and studio space every single working day. Adjusting to working away from that space has been a challenge for us all. But it’s one we met quickly and with enthusiasm across all levels of seniority.
From this, we and many other businesses have learned that the rigidity of previous working schedules are up for debate. Embrace that debate and engage in it, in order to keep your ear to the ground and support the evolving conversation. What is evident from our own teams is that people are calmer. The grind of the daily rush hour commute disappeared overnight. Everyone has gained a little more time throughout this period, albeit that some have had to navigate the additional challenges of home schooling. However, it is important for all that we don’t just revert back to how we were.
For retail brands, there will be huge learnings about how they interact with customers while they’ve been stuck inside. Keeping an eye on statistics and trends from across the market will show how businesses can evolve and adapt to a changing need. What is clear is that there will casualties within retail, which presents huge opportunities for those that are relevant, forward thinking and connected to their followers to recruit newly displaced customers. For many this will be a time to make lemons into lemonade, kickstarting fresh online strategies that have been lingering on the to-do list.
This almost goes without saying at this stage, doesn’t it? For all our best laid plans in week one, lockdown has seen almost daily changes for businesses and public alike. There’s only one solution, and it’s maintaining flexibility and responding nimbly. Oh, and staying positive. Those retail businesses that didn’t have an online presence and pivoted within the space of 4 weeks to open eCommerce stores have not only retained valuable connections to their customers, but have also seen what true agility is and what can be achieved when you all have a common goal.
While many businesses have got some financial and physical security in place for the coming weeks, an expected downturn will test us even further. To fight that, it’s imperative that we maintain the readiness we’ve displayed in the past few months and apply it as things develop over the course of the next few months. Many independent businesses were already preparing for a decidedly different 2020, to say the least, but all is not lost. We all will need to get more out of the money we spend. Equally, we are already working to ensure our clients are spending in the right places, so maximum stability and returns are ensured.
This is a time to try to make the best of a bad situation. For businesses that means reflecting on what a change in circumstances has taught us. For example, are you and your staff spending needless overheads on office spaces and commutes? For many businesses, working from home may be proving more beneficial than thought.
Perhaps this instance has identified areas of weakness for some staff members – be they technological, strategic or otherwise. Preparing an approach to retraining is key here. Training doesn’t just mean learning the ropes of business tools, however. It can and should extend to holistic skills like crisis management, maintaining focus and learning to communicate.
Most of all, this is an opportunity to steel your business and your most important assets – the people who make that business work – against future uncertainties. Consider how you would have prepared for this situation in the hypothetical and make the needs of your staff central to that preparation.
While I know that we haven’t got it all right, and of course we could have done somethings better, what this has taught me is that communication at every stage of the journey cannot be under-valued. Neither can the personal needs of your teams, be it those still working or those on furlough. Everyone has and still is affected by this pandemic, some moreso than others. How we all behave and come through this is equally as important as to how we are behaving today. Maybe the boy scouts were onto something when they said “Be prepared”.
If you need any help, we are here, just get in touch and let us help you find your strengths.
Jayne Riley, Joint CEO of seventy7