TOMORROW WILL BE ANOTHER DAY: HOW TO REINVENT YOUR BUSINESS IN TIME OF CRISIS
Crises take us by surprise, without any preparation; but they also force us to reinvent ourselves. Thus the lessons come into our lives. Without letting us know, without asking for permission. They just arrive. Now what we have to learn is not only to deal with the coronavirus crisis, but with the uncertainty that will become increasingly common. The world is no longer governed by the rules we knew.
Today is COVID-19, tomorrow it will be strikes, devaluation, closings of roads, fall in the price of oil, problems of public order, forced migration, political instability, taxes, natural disasters, some other disease, the collapse of the price of commodities or dictatorships, among many other realities in this world. It is our reality, but it does not have to be our destiny.
Many businesses are facing the greatest crisis they have ever experienced. A situation with no precedents. No sales at all, financial panic, and stressing news are at the order of the day. An uncertain future. And therefore, a unique opportunity to reinvent ourselves.
IT’S TIME TO RETHINK OUR BUSINESS
It is only when things get out of hand and we face the unexpected, that we become aware of our reality. For years we have been told that we have to reinvent ourselves, that we have to adapt to change and evolve. It goes in through one ear and out through the other. It is human nature. If everything is fine, why change? It is so comfortable.
As Anthony de Mello said in his book Awakening: “Only when you are tired of your fatigue, you can overcome it.” As much as they tell us, until we are forced and there is no other option, is when we consider change.
It is time to rethink the business. Not because of the COVID-19 but for our own existence. The crises show our fragility. And the funny thing is that once this situation goes away and we feel comfortable again, many of these reflections will be forgotten. We have a hard time learning. We have a hard time planning, preventing, programming the future and designing the reality we want. We live in the short term and as such, are victims of living as if there were no tomorrow. But there is one and very promising. Tomorrow will be another day.
It is time to help. It’s time to think beyond the sale of the day. It is time to think about the future of our business and all those who depend on it. These recommendations are the result of the contribution of many entrepreneurs who have shared their own experience with us during these tough times.
There is only one thing I beg you not to consider during this crisis: opportunism.
If something instantly destroys a brand’s reputation it is to be seen as opportunistic, taking advantage of the need of others. Of course, we all need to eat and continue to pay our obligations, but that cannot be at the expense of the common good. Don’t think that people don’t realize it.
When something has an opportunistic tinge, people notice it and relentlessly punish it. Think of this situation as an opportunity to be available for people, to serve, to help, to get to know your customers better, to understand their needs, but above all, to be part of this crusade that will ultimately strengthen us.
HOW BUSINESSES ARE FACING THE CRISIS
From various latitudes and economic sectors, these are the lessons experienced by its protagonists, who are directing their efforts towards various fronts. Recommendations from seasoned entrepreneurs who do not give up, no matter how difficult the circumstances are.
We are not alone. Everyone’s experience is infinitely more powerful than the experience of a few. So, thanks to the hundreds of people who shared on our social networks their ideas on how they are facing this crisis; to all who generously and selflessly provided us with resources and inspiration to move forward.
(Note: At the end of the document are the links to the publications on networks, in case you want to check the hundreds of ideas and comments of these entrepreneurs -in Spanish-).
1. Strengthen your team
Just because you work remotely doesn’t mean you can’t further strengthen fellowship and collective initiatives. In fact, it is very likely that now that all colleagues have more time, they are paying more attention than before.
Mauricio Alvarez, among other initiatives he is implementing, recommends that we train the sales team with book and blog readings, make videos and disseminate them with the group, in addition to setting up specific missions to practice what we have learned. Remote work is an alternative that works very well. In fact, Piero Gandini, who works on change management with companies in Europe, shared with us his document Remote Work in Times of COVID-19, as a way to support the implementation of remote work.
On the other hand, some companies have refocused the work of their team. Diana Cardenas told us how the Labyrinth Books bookstore dedicated its usual brick-and-mortar staff to select and send the books that the customer wants at no cost. In addition, each one provides personalized recommendations to your preferences. Your Local Bookstores Need Your Help: Start a book.fm Membership campaign promotes the consumption of audiobooks. (Libro.fm is the audiobook company that directly supports independent bookstores as an alternative to Amazon’s Audible).
Jorge Alberto, in his car wash business, shared with us: “What we plan to do with the operating personnel are three things: 1) Courtesy calls to our clients to validate that their service was as expected and that they remember us, 2) Contest to give us ideas of what new services we can offer and how to sell them (when everything gets back to normal) and 3) Organize the databases and make our team aware that these are moments to appreciate our work and reinvent ourselves”.
Cafe V-60 is taking advantage of the hours of lesser flow of clients to make workshops guided by each team member, where each one has an art to share. It is also a way to motivate them and get to know each other better.
Another option is to take advantage of the moment to discuss with your team actions to take with specific problems that your business is facing. For example, Carol Inspire & Create is using the time to review in detail with each sales executive past due cases and specific low turnover inventory references.
2. Create new products or services
This is the time for creativity to emerge. You have to reinvent yourself and see the world differently. Letting go of what our business has been for years, now ask the question: What if…? We must think without prejudice and explore new paths because that is how the future will be.
The 15-year-old wedding invitations and souvenirs company, Coloring Rice (Arroz de Colores in Spanish), told us what they are doing: “Clients do not know whether to plan an event for the upcoming months, they do not want to risk paying for a party that may not take place. We had to reinvent ourselves. We expanded our portfolio of products. With the same machines and materials, we start offering decoration products such as watches or paintings. We also aim at souvenirs for births (babies will be born anyway), communions and baptisms, which are events that will continue to take place. We even borrowed from Italy the idea of a new product: an acrylic panel ‘anti-virus barrier’ for a counter in shops and medical centers, so that employees feel more secure when caring for people. Another thing we are implementing is making invitations without the date, leaving that space blank for them to complete when they reschedule their event.”
Casa Gestal (Gestalt House), which is dedicated to experiential training in communication through art, faced with the cancellation of events and workshops, launched its first virtual workshop of effective presentations, with others to come. The same situation is facing Ricardo Gomez of EnVivo, who is dedicated to corporate training and is switching collective face-to-face training into individual and virtual training.
3. Keep your clients informed
It is essential to maintain continuous communication with your clients. Especially if they are waiting for news regarding events, supplies, delivery times, service hours, purchase restrictions, communication channels or available support staff, among other possible concerns.
Continuously update the information on your social networks, website, point of sale, emails, mobile application or any other means you use to inform your customers. If due to your type of business you must maintain face-to-face interaction, explain how your processes comply with all safety regulations and your employees are taking strict measures to guarantee the safety of customers.
4. Design a plan B
Plan B does not mean that you have to change your business, but you may surely will need to adapt it, reconfigure it or practically recreate it. It’s what is commonly known as a contingency or recovery plan. It is asking questions that under normal conditions we would not ask ourselves, but that in moments of crisis can save our lives.
A recovery plan includes several things to think about in case the situation changes definitively in your business and you can no longer work as you used to, with the people you used to, with the infrastructure you used to have or with the resources you had at that time.
Among them are: Customer service, suppliers, employee, operations and technology management. A very useful guide in this regard is the one developed by Facebook, Small Business Resilience Toolkit, where it explains in detail what your business should consider to recover from an eventual cessation of activities. Additionally, they include the Quick Action Guide to use as a reference during an eventual disruption of the operation.
5. Rethink your organizational structure
Considering a possible new business model, what should be its ideal organizational structure? If you need to take your business online, should you assign someone in that role? If you are going to explore other markets, should you think of a representative in another region or country? If you are going to develop new products, should you strengthen your area of research and development? If you need to intensify your distribution, should you have someone in charge of finding strategic allies and supply chain companies?
Strategy defines structure. And if the strategy changes, the organizational structure should also change. This may imply that you may relocate people or help them in strengthening new skills.
6. Prevent your clients from going out
Home delivery is not just for restaurants and courier companies. Many businesses are implementing the model of going to the customer to provide the service.
For example, a car wash business is offering its customers home delivery service. This is how Jose Cortes told us: “I dedicate myself to the vehicle washing service. Currently we carry out services locally with gloves and masks and if customers do not come, to avoid infections, we give the option of performing the service at their homes or picking up their cars and then going to drop them off at their homes. The objective is to provide the highest level of comfort and tranquility, without affecting their physical integrity. In these cases we try to offer interior cleaning, where we are able to eliminate 99.9% of viruses and bacteria with steam sanitizers, disinfectants and the application of ionized air”.
On the other hand, Merendero al Natural (a restaurant located in a street market) shared that this crisis made them accelerate the implementation of deliveries they had forgotten, which is now a fundamental part of their business strategy. Also, Queenies gyms are working to teach virtual classes and have their students train from home.
Could your business offer an adaptation of the delivery service? Not only for delivery but for the service itself? Explore options with your local providers so customers don’t have to leave their homes.
7. Take online anything you can
I am aware that many businesses cannot go online or implement home office. However, is there any chance that you will create some disruption in your own industry? Is there a way to take online what everyone believes impossible? Reality has shown us that it is always possible. Maybe offer something semi-online. Do not say no and do not think it is impossible. I don’t have the answer, but I’m sure you do.
You know your business better than anyone and you know what additional services or extra support you could provide online. From processes to how you interact with your customers, everything helps. I am not asking you to create the technology to molecularly break down refrigerators and email them; just look at which part of the customer’s entire buying process could be taken online. The problem with believing that it is not possible is that while you refuse, some unexpected competitors are already considering it. Don’t let them take you by surprise.
8. Take care of your clients
Many companies in the tourism sector that has been so affected, have eased their conditions without charging penalties and allowing customers to use their flights, hotels or tour packages later.
Think of all the needs that your customers may have. Doubts, concerns, processes, what will happen in the future with your products or services. Faced with uncertainty, people want to know what to do with their commitments or with their upcoming plans. Give them peace of mind and think of the best for them.
The most important question to ask ourselves at this moment is not “How can I sell more?” but “How can I support my clients in this situation?” Focusing in pushing sales right now won’t help strengthen your brand, it can actually affect it. Now it’s about helping.
For example Keap, the automation software company of Infusionsoft, in addition to its 24×7 online support, as of March 16 took the following measures to help their community, inspired by the purpose of their company, “Help small businesses succeed ”: The creation of the Keep Going fund with US $ 100,000 for small businesses, offering free consultations with experts and accompanying new businesses to speed up at no cost. Additionally, starting March 23rd, they will implement free webinars to help small businesses deal with chaos and workshops called “automation time” with tips on this topic.
LVMH (Louis Vuitton Möet Hennessy), the multinational group of luxury products, transformed three of their perfume factories to make hand sanitizers, which they will donate to hospitals in France, as a way to help during the crisis and also keep their employees going to work.
On the other hand, authors of children’s books are offering free videos based on their themes to entertain children while they are at home.
9. Evaluate technology platforms
Technology is a must. This is the time to evaluate tools, applications and mobile platforms to make your business more efficient.
From how to streamline order taking, monitoring status of orders, communicating with your team or responding to customers, everything adds up, streamlines and generates value, especially in the customer experience. This can be a great differential in the future. Google for example is promoting the use of Hangouts Meet through its platform. Here they explain 6 tips for better video calls when working from home.
10. Postpone product launches
If you were planning to launch a product or service in the next few weeks, think it twice. We do not want such important news to be lost in the midst of the crisis. Give it a thought. People are having a hard time paying attention to something else and not in “product launch” mode. Save your ammunition (and budget). Wait a bit and you will have more attention.
This does not mean that you cannot talk about what you sell, these days are just different. It is better to do it discreetly and less “commercially.” We are in an emergency and those who are “selling” do not attract the attention of their customers as they used to do it. Some Hollywood studios for example have postponed the release of several movies.
11. Put your online presence in order
The time has finally come! Your website will stop saying “Merry Christmas 2018”. Let’s do it. The time has come to update and strengthen your company’s best salesperson: your website. Review each section and update it. From your portfolio of products and services to your client list. Include testimonials, success stories, and everything a potential customer requires to trust you and buy from you. Change old photos that no longer represent your personality and give it a new look.
Also think about your social networks. Define a communication strategy. In which networks you should be present with more relevance and what information you should be sharing. What content is useful at this time? Remember that these days, pushing for the sale is not very well seen. Relate your business to issues of help and contribution to the community, your brand will be backing it up.
What if you organize your customer and prospect database and start designing an email marketing strategy with valuable periodic content (obviously, respecting the rules of personal data and others)?
12. Support your suppliers
We are all someone else’s clients. Difficult times will come in payments and collections. Payments may be delayed and collections may be affected. However, to the extent possible, support your suppliers, especially if they are small businesses. They have payroll to commit and obligations to cover. Even if your payment policy is 90 or 120 days, these are moments of crisis. Behave accordingly. Show respect to others.
We all have to reevaluate our business conditions (at least temporarily). Think of others. For the vast majority of businesses, sales are not coming. We all must do our part and consider the impact on those around us. It is time to help each other and push forward.
13. Brainstorm with colleagues
Colleagues are friends, suppliers, relatives, customers, competitors and everyone who is facing a situation similar to yours. Now is when we all add to the collective intelligence and find solutions that not even remotely would have occurred to us independently. Take the initiative and invite trusted people to contribute ideas to stay afloat during the crisis.
Identify groups from LinkedIn or Facebook and join in. Build groups with whom you can share best practices in different situations. From ideas to support your team to ways to deal with customer concerns, someone has always been through what you are going through. They don’t even have to be from your same industry. Of course, there will be things specific to your sector, but there are others that are challenges for all companies. Stop stoicism and lean on others. They also need your help and good ideas.
Associations or industry groups have an enormous opportunity to demonstrate once again the value they generate for their members and it is by calling virtual conversations on specific topics. Have panels where everyone expresses their ideas and shares their best practices.
14. Think about the purpose of your business
When life hits us hard it is when we think about what we should have thought long ago; but since things were going well, there was no rush. One of those things is why do we do what we do? It gives north to our work.
The daily work keeps us busy with other things and thinking about a thousand situations, except about the essence of the business and the reason why we exist. This defines where we are going or where we should go. When things get complicated, when the rules change and what you did is no longer the future, isn’t it worth giving it a thought?
A business without a purpose is a business without a soul. Meaningless prosperity is a simple way of earning a living, but not an achievement that transcends our spirit. If there is no purpose there is no persistence, and if there is no persistence, there is no business. Passion is what makes us persist and resist.
15. Explore new suppliers
The crises reveal shortcomings in some vendors or an excessive dependence on one or two who, no matter how much they want, may not have the capacity to attend your needs properly. This does not mean that you should change your supplier, but rather identify and validate alternatives for critical times.
If you import raw materials or finished products, this may be the time to evaluate local options. You could find good alternatives with shorter response times, something that benefits your business and your customer experience.
16. Identify potential markets
Deep devaluation in several countries has forced many companies to start thinking about exporting to other markets as a way to offset the impact of the exchange rate.
If you are evaluating other markets, here are five considerations to keep in mind: 1) Analyze existing competition (there are always competitors), 2) Identify potential clients (are there enough?), 3) Evaluate market price structure (can you make enough money?), 4) Define how you will position your brand (should you create a new one?), and 5) Consider the resources available (Do you have the financial muscle to support your strategy?)
17. Create content
Creating content allows you to stay on the radar. It is about offering relevant information to your prospects, so that when they are searching or asking about a related topic, your content will magically appear. Think about being useful and helping people improve something or solve something. The essence of good content is very simple: relevance.
However, despite how powerful content is, creating content is a time-consuming task. Take advantage of this moment to prepare material you will share in the upcoming months. Record video tutorials to upload to YouTube or write tips that you can post on your website.
For example, sales coach Bill Caskey announced the launch of his podcast The Bill Caskey Podcast Series beginning on Tuesday, March 17th, which will have episodes every Tuesday and Thursday for the next 45 days, with tips and ideas on how to deal with the situation on the market.
18. Learn something new
Being prepared is one of the most important things we must do on a daily basis, but for which we don’t have time either. Now is the time. Educate yourself, “sharpen the ax,” train yourself and strengthen your skills. From learning a new language or cooking, to online marketing or negotiation, it all adds up.
What do you need to improve? What would you like to know better or be better at? What is it that brings you so much happiness but has been forgotten? Like me, maybe you are a frustrated rockstar who would love to play electric guitar? Do you love oil painting but have no idea? Please, do it now.
19. Identify prospects
Especially for businesses that depend on a few clients, identifying and evaluating prospects minimizes risk and excessive dependency. Many companies fail to recover from the loss of a large customer simply because they were unprepared, they thought it would never happen, or because they had no time to think about this “mundane” task.
The loss of a great client happens every day, not only now in the COVID-19 era, it happens constantly. Do not wait until it might be too late. This is the time to prospect, to evaluate with a clear definition of your ideal client, who can be a qualified prospect and design your plan.
20. Start a CRM (even if it’s homemade)
One of the most powerful ways to differentiate in the market is to take care of small and meaningful things with customers. To surprise a client you must know their preferences, interests and what is important for each person.
Now that you have the chance, research your best customers online. Not only the company but the people within the company. Start documenting what you learn from each one on your cell phone, in a spreadsheet or in a specialized software. This is invaluable and will be your secret weapon to surprise customers.
21. Build your online Customer Journey
The Customer Journey is literally mapping every single customer interaction with your business. From the time they find out that you exist until they buy from you, and even when they leave you. Given that we are now redefining this shopping journey to do it online, what experiences would you like customers to experience through their digital channels? Think of special messages for each part of the process.
Understanding what each of those “moments of truth” are, design experiences to surprise them and target their preference. The important thing is to go through the process as if you were a customer. Call your own company, place an order, then place a product return, etc.
22. Plan your next venture
For those who are thinking of starting their own business and have not been able to dedicate enough time to the project, take advantage of this time to design a business plan. Evaluate objectively the feasibility of your idea. What should you keep in mind? With the lessons of this crisis, how are you going to be different?
Times of uncertainty and challenges are an opportunity to defy our thinking, evolve our business model, or even start a new one. While many people freeze in fear, others are open to explore innovative models. Which one are you?
WELCOME TO A NEW WORLD
There are many things you can do. Pick one, the one you think you need the most or would add the most value to your business. After you do that one, start with another one. And so on until the quarantine is over. The time will come to put all these ideas into practice.
Welcome to another reality. To a world that had gradually showed us the way. Things are not what we want them to be, they are what they are. The rules have changed forever. They have been changing for decades, but we didn’t want to accept them. Welcome to a world where human beings matter, nature matters and where the future of our species depends on what we do today. Not a few, but all of us. This is a fantastic world, full of surprises and wonders. It is our own reality. A magical world full of resilient people.
What does this crisis teach us?
In a few months, when all this has happened and the coronavirus will only be remembered as the “person of the year”, what would be next? Did we learn the lesson? Will we go through the same thing again in the future (with another name)? Something has to be learned.
This situation showed us that:
1. We don’t have a plan B
It’s a reality. We do not have a contingency plan. We are not prepared for the slightest variation in the pre-established conditions of our businesses. Something changes and everything gets complicated. We are tied to less and less predictable variables.
Plan, even the basics. The vast majority will not, but if you are one of the rare ones that takes this issue seriously and really puts together a minimal contingency plan, when something else happens that complicates sales, you will appreciate it.
2. Consumer habits are going to change
This is extraordinary news. Finally, many consumers are understanding that being environmentally friendly, socially responsible, taking care of employees and having clean processes is a great difference. Finally, people will appreciate companies that have spent years trying to demonstrate these arguments with little attention from their clients.
By force, we are understanding that people matter, that caring for this planet is not optional, that working from home has been already invented and that technology helps improve the quality of life. It depends on each one how us. Tools are available to everyone.
Difficulties also pose opportunities. As Ipsos puts it in its document How can brands respond to the coronavirus crisis, consumer habits are forcing brands to make adjustments. Those who look ahead and adapt have a promising future.
3. Technology is a must
Technology makes life easier, connects us, improves the experience, protects information, controls processes and saves us time and money.
With this crisis, those who had adopted technology took advantage of it and those who had not, are learning how to do it. Many people finally understood how to have a virtual meeting and how to be more productive with digital tools.
“That which does not kill us makes us stronger”
Friedrich Nietzsche said it well, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” We have the ability to reinvent ourselves. We can make a difference. We will see the light. The question will be, What did we learn? What adjustments will we make in our lives? In our businesses? In our daily lives and in our society?
Will we continue to look with disdain at those who care about making a difference? Will we return to the turmoil without thinking about the future? Will we continue to live as if there is no tomorrow?
We have everything we need. We are complete. We can make a difference in this world, one person at a time. It’s in our hands. Tomorrow will be another day. Beautiful. Shiny. Encouraging. Go for it!
David Gomez – March 17th, 2020
(*) Links to comments on social networks that were the inspiration for this article (in Spanish) : Instagram DG, Facebook DG, Linkedin DG, Facebook BP, Linkedin BP, Twitter BP.