How companies did business yesterday might not work today. And what consumers wanted last year isn’t the same. So how do business leaders adapt and survive when “normal” keeps changing?
1. Optimize for Survival
Some business leaders liken getting through the COVID-19 pandemic to surviving wartime. It’s a matter of survival, and businesses have to do what’s necessary to come out the other side. That means making decisions quickly (even when the information you have is incomplete), focusing on your top priorities, and pivoting to address new needs and audiences. When it comes to your customers, nurture your relationships and cultivate repeat business by asking “what can I do to help you?” Your interest will be remembered.
2. Make a Plan — But Don’t Get Too Attached
The circumstances surrounding COVID-19 have changed often and rapidly — new safety measures, distancing guidelines and regulations have shifted as new information and policies have been introduced by authorities. A plan is a foundational element of every business, and is needed all the more during times of uncertainty. But it’s important to be flexible with your plan — and if it becomes outdated within days (which is likely), be sure to replace it with something new that considers the current environment.
3. Take Advantage of the ‘Buy Local’ Movement
Throughout the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, people around the world have re-discovered the value of their local businesses — both in terms of the products and services they provide, and the spirit they add to the community. The resulting ‘buy local’ movement has encouraged people to support neighbourhood businesses. Whether you sell online or in-store, be confident in your place in the community and position yourself as a positive alternative to international businesses.
4. Don’t Be Afraid Of Making Decisions
When the future is uncertain, it can be hard to know what to do next. But if you have your plan (as per point #2), follow through with it and make the decisions you feel are right for your business. Putting off decisions because of a fear of the consequences can paralyze your business. Do what you can to move it forward.
5. Right-Size Your Business
Having said that, trimming costs where you can will help you extend your runway and take some of the immediate pressure off. Consider how you can cut your discretionary costs — these are costs you choose to pay for, versus those you have to pay for. Discretionary costs differ for every business, so consider what is mandatory versus optional for you at this time. Even non-discretionary costs — such as rent, insurance premiums, debt and taxes — have become negotiable as landlords, lenders and governments offer deferment programs.
Examine your entire balance sheet to see what can be cut out, trimmed down, or deferred. Then reevaluate regularly.
6. Lead with Empathy
It’s important to remember that this situation is a health crisis, a business crisis and a family crisis. While you may be struggling with difficult business decisions, keep in mind that your staff may be dealing with a range of hardships too. Think about ways you can be supportive with flexible schedules, check in regularly with how your staff are doing, and ask if there is anything you can do to make things easier for them. Empathy will lead to open conversations, an engaged workforce, and a spirit of support that can will guide both you and your staff during tough times.
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.