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Let’s face it, none of us have ever been through a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no playbook, no “Pandemic for Dummies” books to read. While there have been other crises in our lifetimes, this one is different because it’s not just a financial crisis, it is also a direct threat to our physical well-being as well.
As a business owner or leader, your team (and your family and community) needs you to guide them through the survival process. Here are my Top 7 Steps you need to take to help them, to lead them. I’m focused on your business here, and I’m sure you will be able to see how these apply outside the office as well.
- First, don’t panic. Your team is feeling Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD), and the last thing they need to see or feel is that your are acting/leading based on FUD. Stay calm and cool, collect your thoughts, set your priorities and respond thoughtfully while avoiding emotional reactions. Be positive; find the wins every hour of every day.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. You need to be communicating regularly with your team, your customers, your suppliers, and your community. Make sure everyone knows what you are doing to protect them and their needs. You should be communicating with your team multiple times per day. Establish new patterns of morning huddles and frequent check-ins with your team – use technology to facilitate this and to maintain safe distancing. Keep in touch with clients regularly, let them know what you are doing, what you are planning to do next, and educate them on why it is safe to continue doing business with you. Help remove their FUD.
- Don’t argue with the Facts. We all have our opinions about what is going on, whose fault it is, and what others should be doing about it. What we shouldn’t do is get caught up in debating the facts of the situation. Instead, accept them and begin adapting to them.
- Fact: We are in the midst of a world-wide pandemic.
- Fact: People will be living their lives from home – shopping, entertaining, working.
- Fact: Distribution methods will change.
- Fact: Supply chains will be disrupted and change.
- Save your resources. Now is the time to deepen your understanding of your financials. Eliminate all discretionary expenses (not investments like Sales and Marketing) and activities which do not contribute to cashflow. Use your credit, (extend it ASAP) and conserve your cash. Re-negotiate loan payments, leases, and other debt payments.
- Be prepared to make the tough decisions. One of your primary functions as a business owner/leader is to ensure that your business survives the crisis. You must do everything you can to make sure your business is still there when the crisis wanes. This will likely mean workforce reductions, which is very hard, but is another Fact to deal with. Employment contracts when business contracts. Do it with compassion, but do it quickly and decisively, this is both a short-term and long-term business survival decision.
- Evaluate both your supply chain and your distribution methods. They have surely changed short-term, and possibly for the medium term as well. Find alternatives, consider new ways to buy and sell that meet your needs and the new buying patterns/methods of your customer base. Identify the weak links, the gaps, the opportunities, and make the changes necessary.
- Last but not least – put your personal care either first or high on the list. Your team (family, community) need you to be healthy and to stay healthy to lead them through the duration of the crisis, and then to lead them some more as we come out of the crisis. This means eating well, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep. Find support groups (other business owners maybe) so you can maintain your mental health and sanity. If you aren’t 100% you can’t be there for your team when they need you.
We are in unprecedented times, and that calls for leadership. Your teams are living in FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) and they need you more than ever. Be the positive influence, look for small wins, help them through their days.