The past two months have been a practice in firefighting for many business owners. Whether determining how to adjust their business model, working through the best solutions for employees, or helping customers navigate the fear and panic. It’s hit everyone – but with different effects.
Although our pre-pandemic “normal” is out of sight, many businesses are adapting to the temporary “normal.” We are assessing the damage and looking ahead, all while making sure to factor in the vulnerabilities that we uncovered by this disaster. Even though the pain may still be very raw and real, consider what you’ve learned (so far) and put those lessons into your future planning.
Here are some of my top essential takeaways that we’ve experienced during the pandemic:
Empathy is Essential
I was traveling the first week of March as the situation in Seattle escalated. People at work were increasingly concerned about exposure, and I could understand why. I’m an optimist, and my instincts tend toward logic, possibly to a fault. I always need to balance that with the understanding that others’ experiences and tendencies are different than mine. Together, we acknowledged the risk and concern and laid out options to provide each person control over their own situation. Logic paired with empathy gave the team the confidence to make choices for themselves that still worked for the business.
Community is Essential
I’ve been in awe of how the business community has come together. I’ve seen businesses, large and small, find ways to help one another. Small businesses, initially devastated, have come together in just a few days to build a new business. I’ve seen so many professionals step up to make complex information available. In addition, my network of fellow business owners has been there, checking in with each other to help where possible – even if just to be someone to lean on or a shoulder to cry on. The resilience and support have been incredible to see. I feel blessed to be a part of this community.
Preparation is Essential
Over the years, I have spent time learning how to hire the right people for my team. The effort and intentionality around hiring have helped to create a team dedicated to meeting clients’, and our own business’s, changing needs. Keeping a proactive mindset, seeking out answers to new (and daily changing) rules, and anticipating challenges to put plans in place have helped us better prepare. To be a valuable resource to our clients in times of change, we need systems to process new information to get it out to our community quickly. We’ve learned that we don’t have to do it all ourselves, and to leverage others who are also in the business of serving clients in a similar way. Timely is more important than perfect.
Apply Lessons Learned to Future Planning
The trickle-down effect of this disaster has been different than any other, so we don’t know what the next six months will bring or predict what the next disaster will look like. So how do we prepare? We can look at what dependencies exist in our businesses – dependencies on employees, physical spaces, vendors, or customers. What can you shift in your relationships through contracts, insurance, or contingency planning to reduce or eliminate those dependencies? We can also look at what is essential. What is the economic engine of your business, and what does it need to produce? Business continuity planning has historically focused on natural disasters, but the scale of the current situation gives it new meaning. Instead of looking at this as an anomaly, consider what future planning tactics you needed to have in place – systems, people, finances – to get through disaster relatively unscathed.