As COVID-19 continues its worldwide spread, there is no crystal ball to predict how or when this will end. While public health and safety remains front and center, and rightfully so, the disruption the virus has waged on businesses is hard to ignore.
While industries such as sanitation services and technology providers are faced with overwhelming demand and potential financial upswing, others such as hospitality and restaurants are experiencing swift and deep downturns. The ripple effect is far-reaching, impacting raw materials, supply chains, employment and more.
Enterprise Bank & Trust has been surveying clients on how they are handling the crisis since the pandemic hit the U.S. Close to 600 organizations have weighed in, and the results can be broken into three areas: solve, plan and grow. Here are some key takeaways that businesses can consider to help address the financial challenges of 2020.
Plan for the Unexpected
Businesses should begin with an examination of potential threats or, depending on the size of the business, build a team to guide the move forward. Here are some common best practices and preparation strategies:
- Invest in technology upgrades that have otherwise been put off. Consider this a time for employees to make use of their updated or new tools while working from home.
- It might seem obvious, but spend time on — or revise — the business’s crisis plan. It’s never too late. Businesses need to act while it’s top-of-mind and document steps as they are actively seeing it unfold.
- Nonprofits that are dependent on grants should consider researching alternative income sources in the event grants dry up.
Increase Communication Across all Levels
A disruptive event like COVID-19 often generates new and competing tasks across an organization. Business leaders should continually clarify company goals and plans — at the team and individual levels — to stay focused on key priorities. By increasing communications to employees, businesses will help keep other stakeholders such as customers and vendors informed and engaged. In addition, leaders should communicate openly and frequently with advisors; an outside perspective can provide clarity and generate new ideas.
Look for Hidden Sales Opportunities
For as many businesses that are feeling the pain of the crisis, some are finding new opportunities. Just ask video conference software companies, toilet paper manufacturers and home delivery companies. Different needs come from the circumstances currently presenting themselves.
For example, a fiber optics cable company might say that business is increasing from all the people who need better internet connections as they work and learn from home. Other organizations might rethink their supply chain and go-to-market strategy. Or, now might be a great time to expand a newer product line and reduce reliance on resources that can be impacted by the prolonged duration of the outbreak.
Whatever the case might be, it’s imperative to leave no stone unturned when learning about the new market needs and exploring how these new demands can be met to improve or secure profits.
One thing is also certain, this is the time to dust off sales and marketing plans. Even if it’s only an hour a week, businesses should capitalize on that time to get ahead of the curve.
Look Out and Lean In
In times of uncertainty, employees want to know the owner is a human being — someone who cares about them. Great leaders are showing their authentic selves, and this will pay dividends for employee morale. Through all of this will emerge the next generation of great businesses, leaders and communities — not to mention the new companies that will develop to service what is sure to be a changed marketplace and world.
Additionally, businesses that can should consider how they look outward and envelop the communities that they live in and serve. Look for ways to stand up and support the community, whether is financially, donating time, spreading awareness among their own network or forming a corporate giveback task force to incentivize employees to engage with their communities in a charitable way.
These uncertain times can be scary and bring a wide variety of challenges to people and businesses. However, with the right tools and mindset and a well-thought-out plan, it’s not all doom and gloom. Positive things can emerge when businesses take the time to solve, plan and grow.
Jeff Friesen is the president of the Arizona Region with Enterprise Bank & Trust.