After more than a year of pandemic, what have we learned? Here are some insights that could help you to prepare for what comes next.
Despite an unstable economy that hinges on government decisions, some businesses have managed to survive. Some are even thriving. How have they done it? Here are the main elements that emerged from our observations.
1. Be flexible and creative
Successful companies focused squarely on innovation in a bid to seize the opportunities that surfaced during the pandemic. This involved:
- Reviewing their offer to meet emerging needs;
- Adjusting their distribution or service provision model to make sure they could continue serving customers despite constraints;
- Adjusting their work methods to keep people safe.
What successful companies have in common is their agility and ability to evolve. For example, some manufacturers modified their production lines to make the products that were suddenly in high demand, like sanitizer, personal protective equipment and plexiglass panels.
In the services industry, some restaurants adjusted their menus and made meals to go. Bookstores changed their sales and delivery processes to capitalize on the shift to online shopping. Beauty and hair salons updated their practices to comply with new public health measures, while also rethinking the customer experience.
Finally, event organizers completely revamped their business model by shifting to virtual events and making use of online creativity platforms (like Murale and Miro) to host group work sessions.
2. Communicate with your employees regularly
Successful businesses seem to have kind, reassuring leaders whose emotional intelligence allowed them to:
- Show they care about employee wellbeing and want to stay connected to them;
- Strengthen mutual trust by providing information and listening to their workers;
- Seeking employee input on potential solutions;
- Promote a sense of belonging by holding online activities and developing interpersonal relationships.
The crisis led to uncertainty, which left a lot of workers feeling uneasy and wondering about the future. In addition, many companies were forced to send their teams to work from home, a situation that comes with its fair share of inconveniences and risks. The shift to remote work was a radical change for many, and the fact that it was introduced virtually overnight had a major emotional impact on employees. In these circumstances, having approachable leaders made a big difference and making teams wellbeing a top priority proved helpful for staff retention and engagement.
The companies that successfully weathered the storm made a clear effort to maintain and strengthen trust with their employees. In addition to communicating with teams regularly and being transparent about the latest developments, they encouraged discussion and paid attention to the feedback they received. They also equipped workers with effective tools and measures to control deliverables in a way that was realistic and suitable for the context.
To create a better sense of belonging and capitalize on their entire talent pool, these companies facilitated dialogue and implemented new work methods. This strategy allowed everyone to suggest ideas and get involved. Successful companies promoted a collaborative work culture that went all the way up to the management and executive levels.
They also got creative to organize socially distant group activities, like informal discussions and virtual after-work drinks. When combined, these initiatives helped maintain a certain degree of balance.
3. Take a step back before moving forward
All too often, companies react to situations before properly analyzing their options. In doing so, they don’t give themselves the time to find better ideas or discover opportunities to capitalize on the changing circumstances. To give your company the best chances, you should:
- Set up a designated committee with representatives from all areas to make sure the right questions get asked and solutions are found together;
- Find external partners and seek insights from a broad circle of contacts;
- Provide direction, even if it means making difficult decisions.
When it comes to crisis management, you should always start by setting up a crisis response unit. You want to involve people from all your teams so that you can get differing perspectives. By taking the time to reflect on issues in a structured setting, and examining problems from all angles, you’ll find the best ways to get past obstacles and survive the crisis.
Taking a step back allows you to assess the direct and collateral damage the crisis is having on your company. It also gives you the chance to check in with each of your business units and stakeholders to see how they’re being affected and what can be done to help. Crisis units usually include senior managers from each division and department so that you can get a 360-degree appreciation of the situation.
Leaders play a critical role during crises. They need to demonstrate courage by making tough decisions, taking calculated risks and thinking outside the box. This involves getting input from all available resources, even those who aren’t usually part of the decision-making team, like field personnel. You need to clearly lay out the road ahead and rally your teams to get onboard and move in that direction.
4. Recognize your company’s full potential and consider new opportunities
Even once they’re over the worst, successful companies continue to pursue development. They give themselves the time and means to:
- Analyze their organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats;
- Improve their market position;
- Adjust their business model.
By assessing the different aspects of their operations and examining both their internal and external environments, companies can gain insights on how to position themselves more advantageously and develop a realistic strategic plan.
It can be hard to think about this when you’re in the thick of a crisis—especially since you need to make quick and effective decisions to get through it—but it’s important to be ready once the acute phase is over. What will things look like for your company in a few weeks or months? How will you be faring compared to your competitors? What comes next? Consumer habits are changing in all industries. So are employee behaviours.
Technology is now omnipresent, affecting service delivery models and work processes. New work environments and setups are emerging. Workers and clients are more mobile than ever. These are just some of the factors that will have a lasting impact on supply and demand.
Successful companies take time to reflect on where they are and where they want to be. Then they create a strategic plan to make sure they stay ahead of the curve, rather than being left behind. Action plans can include things like gradually implementing innovative technologies, introducing new products or services, or even making radical changes to your business model. The important thing is for the plan to be well thought out. You want to avoid pitfalls and be ready to shift into high gear once things get back to normal.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for getting your company back on its feet. You’ve got to find the right strategy for your business. Quebec abounds with business success stories. If you’re looking for the recipe for success, our teams can help you find the right ingredients.