Moving forward during a pandemic
The United States and the world have been in the COVID-19 pandemic for better than half a year (or perhaps longer when you read this.) Early on, people and businesses were abruptly closed in panic. Yet as the crisis wears on, entrepreneurs and leaders realize that planning for reopening and the future is critical to survival. We are entering the recovery phase.
Because of the COVID-19, great numbers of people have become ill and died. People have lost their jobs and livelihood. Industries have cratered. People are scared. The tragedy has altered the way we view the world outside our homes.
The road ahead of us doesn’t look like the road behind us
Consumer spending has plummeted with dollars being allocated to fundamental goods and services that could be utilized from home. Spending on travel for business or pleasure stopped. Office workers ceased commuting and began logging in to the cloud to conduct business.The oil industry suffered losses in sales on top of record low oil prices. Spending on luxury services and goods took a vacation. Consumers decided to save their stimulus checks. Financially, they pulled back. To be sure, consumers are going to retain and be more comfortable with new habits and services they have adopted during the pandemic like spending on streaming media, ebooks, and other forms of online entertainment like gaming.
Hope for the future exists
Yet, there is hope for the future as scientists research and begin the development of vaccines. Business leaders are developing new ways of doing business. Ecommerce is flourishing. The human drive towards creativity and innovation is leading us forward. Industries are refining protocols to keep employees, vendors and customers safe. However, customers depending on the sector of your industry may not be comfortable resuming life as normal. Indeed, most people cannot envision “normal” in their future.
What is different going forward?
A recent poll conducted by financial services firm Cowen reports that the majority of the 2,500 individuals surveyed said they are not comfortable returning to their normal activities. As reported in AdWeek, consumers’ confidence (on a 1-10 point scale with 1 being no confidence and 10 being highly confident) has lowered with regards to returning to restaurants and bars, gyms, and concert venues. Half the people surveyed by Cowen report they expect their lives to be disrupted for more than six months and fully 22% expect their lives to be disrupted for 12 months.
Normal has a new look.
In this type of environment, doing nothing to build trust in your business is not an option. Magical thinking will not cut it. In fact, magical thinking will doom your business. This is the time to make a plan and implement a strategy that will help you find the future and achieve your goals. This is the time for agility and innovation.
As Chris Greenslade of Assurance Through Alliance (ATA) says, “As we transition our companies and ourselves to a post-pandemic world, we appreciate that the new normal for now is uncertainty, confusion and fear. A state of sheer panic and paralysis for some, where lack of action regarding forward planning can prove to be catastrophic. This is especially prevalent where hotel or vendor contracts, for example, have not been re-negotiated, exposing the client to potential damages and cancellation penalties.” Greenslade and his associates have come together, seeking an opportunity to form a new service to guide companies and leaders in a positive direction as they look forward to planning meetings and events.
A travel industry professional with whom we spoke knows that her customers may not desire to travel for a while, yet there are those who “want to get out there.” However, until she can assure herself and clients that every level of cleanliness and the prevention of disease / transmission has been addressed by her vendors, she cannot make a plan to resume regular operations. She is assessing opportunities to shift the type of business she does. Whether she may wish to do that or not has yet to be determined, but she is facing the reality with her eyes open and researching new types of small group travel and alternative ground transportation.
A business coach is resuming her small circle meetings after meeting with her clients in the park where they candidly discussed their fears and futures. Collectively, the group determined that they would wish to continue their gatherings, albeit in a safe environment, observing all recommended protocols to limit exposure.
A yoga studio is shifting the way they book classes and organize people in the studio space. They are limiting physical contact and asking class participants to sign up online. They are articulating the new procedures in emails to their students and on their social media. They are sharing their delight at getting students back on their mats and doing everything they can in a positive manner.
Looking ahead, not back, because that’s where opportunity lies
These wise entrepreneurs are moving forward. They know they must. They are communicating with their customers. They are seeking input from colleagues. They are assessing their options. They are not waiting and twiddling their thumbs.
Writing for HBR, Patrick Viguerie and Alex Viguerie state, “Objectives for reopening must balance multiple and competing considerations. Clear thinking here will go a long way toward helping frame sensible action choices. Decision scientists call these “saddle point” problems, which typically involve minimizing one quantity and maximizing another.”
Only you and your business partners can make decisions. And make decisions you must. Not to decide your future is to give up. So, if you’re not giving up what are you going to do moving forward?
Make your plan
Take time to assess and evaluate your options and think creatively about your future. In days past, we would call this a SWOT analysis (Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats.) Plot these on a quadrant and then break each one down. Be honest and clear with yourself, your business partners and vendors. Discuss all the roadblocks you can see. Make plans to address each one to reach a level of comfort with your intentions. Use your emotions positively to help you track down what you choose to commit to.
The 4Rs of reopening in a pandemic world
Critical elements to evaluate and enumerate as you move forward towards a plan include:
- Resources: assess your financial situation to determine if you can endure at a lowered volume; your personnel; governmental restrictions and guidelines where you operate; industry guidelines and best practices as well as ways to limit negative outcomes.
- Roadblocks: What are the nogos? Where are the limits?
- Resiliency: assess your ability to shift, to pivot, to begin in a new manner or a modified manner. We will see many who become hybrids after understanding the new normal. What can you do differently and still operate in your core space?
- Reality: Consumers’ habits have and will continue to shift. More are cooking at home, working from home and perhaps even undertaking home-schooling of their children. These consumers have a different set to preferences going forward. Have you clearly examined the mindset of those whom you serve? Will your services and products meet their need/s? Create a marketing plan based on this reality as well as the other items in this list.
Tell us about your reopening plans. What are you doing differently? How are you innovating?
Featured image credit to Diego Jimenez on Unsplash