10 Things You Can Do Now to Improve Your Business During Recovery
It’s been a year like no other for all of us, and especially for business owners. In this strangest of economic downturns, some sectors including retail have weathered the storm relatively well while others, like the restaurant and hospitality industry, remain on the ropes. Six months into the pandemic, there’s still no clear timetable to full recovery.
As businesspeople we’re trained to look for the opportunities that hide behind any setback, and the year of COVID-19 is no exception. Many businesses have moved on from “how do we survive?” mode to finding new ways to get things done in a remote environment. But if your organization is simply devising new methods of treading the same water, you’re missing out on chances to make substantial improvements. Even worse, you might be missing opportunities to future-proof your business and insulate it from the next “black swan” event.
In our conversations with business leaders we’ve uncovered 10 things they’re doing now in order to emerge from the pandemic as stronger organizations. The strategies run the gamut from cost savings to technology improvements to organizational communications. Here are the highlights:
Larger firms can accumulate vendor contracts like barnacles on a ship. With the left hand not always knowing what the right is doing, many firms continue to write checks for services that are redundant or even no longer needed. Now is the perfect time to review vendor agreements across all departments, evaluate their necessity and clear out the deadwood. This can make a significant difference in operational costs.
For the vendors providing services you still require, this is the moment to reach out. First of all, be upfront about any potential problems with making timely payments. Advance warning here will be appreciated, and many suppliers have found a way to accommodate these changed financial circumstances by adjusting payment terms, forgiving balances or both. That same transparency can even result in more favorable terms going forward, and the act of working together with a supplier towards a solution will result in a stronger relationship.
Check the plastic
Like those vendor contracts, it’s very easy to accumulate subscription services on company credit cards. These can easily fly under the radar because $20 permonth for this web-based service or that one doesn’t seem like much … until you start adding them up. You might be surprised at the savings from a thorough review of those monthly charges. One business owner we know took the bold step of shutting off company credit cards completely and starting over. There were some service interruptions, but he reports that the savings far outweighed the inconvenience.
Address the tech
Chances are you’re already had to make adjustments to your IT systems to accommodate the work-from-home (WFH) environment. And chances are pretty good that at least some of those adjustments were hurry-up, on-the-fly changes born out of necessity. Now’s the time for a top-to-bottom review of your IT picture. Is it time to move completely to the cloud? Is your WFH team using their own devices, and how comfortable does that leave you? These are important questions because …
It’s a hacker’s paradise
Malware and ransomware attacks have ramped up exponentially during the COVID-19 crisis. The combination of the environment (WFH, personal devices, security solutions not up to par) and new ways to fool users (phony contact tracing texts, fake emails about stimulus payments) has created a perfect storm for cyber thieves. With some ransomware demands now reaching six figures, the time for whistling past this particular graveyard is past. It’s much less expensive to prevent an attack than to recover from one. Don’t wait.
A seat at the table
If your board meetings or management meetings don’t include leadership from the IT department, that needs to be corrected. The one constant in the world of technology is change, and frankly there are very few business decisions that can be made without considering the role IT will play going forward. You need technology to support your business now more than ever; make sure the right people are at the table, ask plenty of questions and be sure you fully understand the answers.
Adjust the course
In the early days of the pandemic, perhaps no word was more overused in business circles than “pivot,” as companies scrambled to find new paths to success or even survival. Your future success may not require a full pivot into a different space, but this is an opportune time to assess your market offerings with the same eye you used on those credit card charges. Is everything on your “line card” of product or services still relevant? Are there new offerings you should add?
Do it fast
“Perfect is the enemy of progress,” goes the saying. Yes, these are unprecedented times, and the go-to response here is caution. But the companies most likely to thrive in challenging circumstances, now and in the future, are the ones who can react nimbly. Take a hard look at your decision-making processes with an eye towards what can be streamlined. Says one CIO, “Don’t get it perfect. Get it done.”
Unprecedented times call for unprecedented levels of communication. You need to know how your team is doing. Do they have the tools they need for success in working from home? Are there schedule modifications the company can offer to help them manage family situations like kids learning from home? It’s much harder to keep your finger on the pulse of team morale in a WFH environment … be sure to devote the additional time and effort.
Leaders need to be exceptionally sensitive to their employees in this time, and that involves more than just listening. Your team is likely to be worried, and they’re not privy to much of the decision making that’s happening at the upper levels of the company. You must communicate with them on a regular basis so they understand what’s happening and why, because a vacuum of silence will be filled with rumors and worse. Time spent here to inform and reassure will be more than rewarded with a more motivated and loyal team.
When a crisis such as this one hits, most us get into the trenches and start handling details, and that’s as it should be. Now that we’ve had some time to adjust to the “new normal,” it’s time to step back again and take in the bigger picture. Companies that devote attention to organizational improvements like these will be in a better place in the long run.