The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic poses huge business challenges, including supply chain interruptions, shifts in consumer demand, and new regulations. But if you look beyond immediate crisis management to identify emerging opportunities, the pandemic can also be a catalyst to improve your business in the long term.
With strategic adjustments to your company’s culture, services, and products, supplemented by software outsourcing services, your “new normal” business will be smarter, more efficient, and stronger than ever. The following are some recommendations to guide you through and beyond the current crisis.
1. Think Like a Startup
The pandemic has produced a new set of consumer behaviors and needs across a wide range of industries. To respond with the most creative solutions now is the time to think more like a startup, even if you have a long-established business. With a startup mindset, you nurture key characteristics such as:
- Willingness to experiment
- Outside-the-box thinking
The world has fundamentally changed, and your business needs to change with it. Playing it safe is no longer wise, even if you’re more comfortable with how you’ve done things in the past. If you cultivate the creative outlook of a startup, new ideas and innovations you never thought could work will start to seem possible. The following video describes some of the beneficial startup characteristics:
2. Consider Your Culture
Your company’s culture — your set of shared values, goals, attitudes, and practices — guides your decision-making and directly influences your capacity to innovate, create, and adapt. Now more than ever, you need a culture designed to grow out of disruption and recognize the opportunities in crisis situations. If your existing culture hasn’t prepared you to handle this pandemic well, take steps to identify and correct weaknesses now.
To respond to rapid changes, prioritize resiliency, adaptability, creativity, and flexibility in current and future employees. Encourage open questioning of the way things are done, rather than reinforcing the status quo. Allow people to share ideas and celebrate those that become new products or services. Encourage younger team members to share thoughts about what might help your business adapt to a new world.
To further support your employees, offer training sessions focused on new skills they need now, along with professional development opportunities.
In addition to supporting your employees, your culture should prioritize the health and safety of your customers with new offerings like online ordering and curbside pick-ups. Consider providing new products to keep people safer or financial breaks like extended payment periods or added discounts to help long-term clients who are struggling financially.
Make sure customers realize you care about their well-being. They will remember how you reacted during this crisis and will reward you with loyalty later on.
3. Pivot Your Services
Amidst pandemic disruptions, consumers are trying to create a sense of normalcy and still want to access their favorite services when they can. To respond to this demand, adapt your service model to offer a digital or remote option where feasible. Once you can provide in-person services again, you may find that customers prefer the convenience or speed of a remote format, so be prepared to continue to offer that option for the foreseeable future.
Also, consider pivoting and expanding into new areas where there’s an increased level of need. Some examples include:
- Home delivery of a wider range of products.
- Cleaning services.
- Remote fitness classes and virtual personal trainers.
- E-commerce ordering platforms.
- Online education delivery systems.
In many places, local governments have changed rules to allow businesses to serve customers in new and more flexible ways, such as home delivery of alcohol or expansion of outside dining options. Whenever you can, take advantage of these opportunities. If customers appreciate the new services, they may end up demanding that the rules remain adjusted in the long term.
4. Improve Processes and Products
Take advantage of temporary slowdowns in sales to work on improving your processes. For example, you can:
- Upgrade your systems and production processes to increase quality and efficiency.
- Overhaul your website, catch up on mobile application maintenance, and expand your business management software options.
- Create a more flexible supply chain, so you’ll be ready to switch to new suppliers as needed to avoid any delays.
Additionally, think of features you could add to your existing products to improve your customers’ experience both now and after the pandemic ends. Develop new products to move your business into expanded or emerging markets, such as branded fashion masks, portable sanitizing devices for schools, or more effective collaboration tools for remote workers.
5. Look for Partnerships
The pandemic has placed added pressure on state and local agencies, and other service providers, as demands for social services increase dramatically while public funding remains flat. Seek out opportunities to offer your business as a partner to help these agencies maintain their quality and volume of services.
Through partnerships, your business can help meet a wide range of community needs such as meals for children while schools remain closed, training for teachers to help them shift to online learning formats or job searches for laid-off workers. Such efforts will increase loyalty by showing customers you value the community in which you serve.
6. Tinker With Technology
You’ve likely tapped into various technological trends, such as e-commerce and video conferencing, to continue your business activities during public health shutdowns and restrictions. These tools can also benefit your business as you move into the post-pandemic future.
These technological shifts can result in a more efficient and cost-effective business than you had before. Continue to expand your technology use to deliver better products and services to your customers, increase productivity, improve your employees’ lives, and drive future business growth.
Even after restrictions are lifted, you might decide to maintain some elements of remote working and virtual meetings, which can provide a range of benefits:
- Ability to tap into a larger pool of skilled workers.
- Lower overhead and travel expenses.
- Expanded geographic reach.
- Job flexibility for your employees.
Don’t overlook the added need for cybersecurity that comes with expanding your use of technology. Remote work, collaboration tools, and virtual meetings increase your business’ exposure to cyberattacks. Upgrade to the most secure versions of all your apps and browsers, and ensure that your employees’ home devices are up to date with firewalls, antimalware, and antivirus programs.
Look Beyond Crisis Management to Long-term Improvement
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to the world. Some may present difficult challenges, but others can provide opportunities for you to change your business for the better. If you adopt a startup mindset, strengthen your business culture, and expand your use of technological tools, you’ll be better positioned to respond to whatever comes next.