What Does The Coronavirus Pandemic Teach Us About The Business Approach To Crises?
The scale and speed of the Coronavirus pandemic was like nothing else the world has experienced. Businesses had to think fast, and, whether planned or unplanned, set themselves on the path the recovery. Studies suggest that this recovery will be relatively slow. McKinsey, for example, predicts that it will take Europe until 2023 before economic activity reaches pre-Coronavirus crisis levels. However, indications from China suggest a quick bounce-back could happen too. So, what does the road to recovery look like? Here is a five-step business approach to help build a successful recovery plan.
Stage One: Withstanding The Initial Impact
This is the first stage for many businesses, and the recent pandemic has perhaps shown some organisations that having a structure in place is vital at this time. When the virus spread and lockdown became commonplace across the world, many businesses had to think fast and act quickly to ensure the business had what it needed.
The first step for any business facing a crisis is to look for methods that support business continuation.
Digitisation is key in this stage. This was shown through many retailers selling out of laptops as organisations looked to continue their business through home-working. Similarly, video conferencing functions such as Zoom also increased heavily during the lockdown. With daily users jumping from 10 million to over 200 million, it became the way to connect with the office and colleagues and create a makeshift work environment.
As well as utilising technology where possible to improve business continuity, this stage required a considerable communication effort. From emails to clients, calls to suppliers, communication on social media and everything in between. The initial phase focuses on making sure the business is braced for impact and being able to deliver an emergency response.
Planning for your business: What can your organisation put in place to help make sure you can have business continuity for all emergencies? Are all your communication lines running smoothly? Is your customer and supplier data all up to date?
Stage Two: Explore Short-Term Opportunities
If, with business continuity in place, your team still has free time, or could still work harder to improve operations then now is the time to explore any new opportunities or sales channels that may present themselves during a crisis. For example, looking to increase your e-commerce if your foot traffic is down or offering one-off solutions rather than a commitment to an annual package.
It can also be a time to consider any marketing or brand-building opportunities. Your customers may not be in the position to buy during a crisis. However, by maintaining that marketing effort and keeping up your customer communication is the best way to stay in the mindset of your customer. This is so that you’re the first brand they think of when they’re ready to make a purchase.
Planning for your business: Right now, you need to be thinking of how a crisis is affecting your customers. What pain points are they experiencing? What’s worrying them, what would benefit them and what do they need? Then work out how you can provide this.
Stage Three: Re-Evaluation
While some businesses are thriving at the moment due to the fact that they have an in-demand offering, many firms are suffering in the short-term. However, with business continuity in place in stage one, businesses should have more peace of mind for their long-term viability.
Once continuity is in place, this is the chance re-evaluate your business and business offering. What’s working well in your operations, processes and platforms? What’s outdated and serving little purpose?
A crisis needs both short and long-term thinking. For the long-term, it is well worth utilising your resources for lead management and nurturing, contingency planning and strategising for the future.
Remember, a slowdown can be very short-term. We’ve already learnt from China that it doesn’t take long for the economy to rebound. Utilising this time wisely to prepare for unprecedented demand may be well worth the investment.
Planning for your business: It is time to take a detailed look at all of your processes – what adds value and what detracts? How can you increase value and remove expense?
Stage Four: The New Normal
For every international crisis, it becomes quickly apparent that we have to prepare for a ‘new’ normal. In terms of the Coronavirus outbreak, this means a significant focus on cleanliness, hygiene, safety and social distancing.
However, other aspects could include operating rules and work prioritisation too.
Each industry will begin to see a new normal that it will have to adapt to. For example, supermarkets at the moment have to prepare for larger weekly grocery shops coming back in fashion. Similarly, the aerospace industry is now having to adapt, and changes may include increased fever checks, mandatory PPE and caps on plane capacity.
For each business, there will be a fundamental shift that will make up their new normal. This could be as simple as increased working from home or increased e-commerce and online operations. For example, an increase in digital financial transactions.
Planning for your business: What do your customers want from your company in this ‘new normal? How can you ingrain this into your long-term business offering?
Stage Five: Realisation
While we are a long way off post-pandemic realisation from the Coronavirus, this is the stage where ‘new normal’ becomes normal. All of the changes and risk management strategies put in place throughout other stages will redefine and create an updated business model.
This realisation could be focusing on increasing your digital integration, reworking your staffing models and redesigning your workforce. Whatever your business has now become, this is the stage where you embrace this change and fully adopt it into practice.
Planning for your business: How can you increase your risk and emergency management strategies to better prepare for any future crises?