by Judy M McCutcheon
If nothing else, this pandemic has taught us that nothing is static and that the more things change, the more people want them to remain the same.
The unknown nature of this adversary has us fearful, wondering how much longer our lives will be disrupted. I can confirm that our lives and businesses have forever been altered. People are talking about the “new normal,” but I do not think that the word “new’ should be appended as I believe that this is what normal is for us now. Who knows it may change again within the next 6 months. But here we are, and at this point, we should have gone through several stages since the start of this pandemic. As a business owner, the phase you should be at right now is developing flexible strategies for keeping your business afloat in the face of uncertainty. One way to do that is to reflect on the lessons learned during this crisis, and I am optimistically assuming that you have indeed learned a thing or two, through all of this.
I want to share with you the lessons I have learned during this time, and how we can apply them forward.
Lesson 1: What is my core?
As small business owners, we try to be all things to all people, and in the process, we run ourselves into the ground, tired, becoming the jack of all trades and the master of none. What this downtime has allowed me to do is to revisit my why. Why did I start this consultancy in the first place? And because of that, I was able to pass on some opportunities that came my way but would have caused me considerable pains if I had accepted. We must go back to the drawing board, look at the things that we are doing that may be preventing us from doing the things that we ought to be doing so that we can serve our clients the way they deserve to be served – with delight.
Lesson 2: There is strength in collaboration
A big part of what we do is training, and all of our training is face to face. In the Caribbean, we very much want that personal touch. Having instructor-led training somehow makes us believe that is the only or perhaps the most effective way for learning to take place. Everywhere is closed, no large gatherings can happen, so we have had to put all our training online. What this has allowed us to do is collaborate with an educational content company; that way, we can offer our clients more content than we could have, had we decided to go it alone. We shy away from collaboration because, in lots of ways, it makes us vulnerable. However, the single most important lesson that I take with me into the future is that of collaboration. We simply cannot go it alone.
Lesson 3: Be Agile
If it is one thing that this situation has taught us is that we cannot afford to remain static. We have to innovate and reinvent our businesses to stay relevant. The issue of food security because very apparent for us in the region when all borders were closed. This issue presented an excellent opportunity for many of us to become adaptive, creative, and to evolve. Nothing remains the same, and so your business model must be flexible enough to adapt to changing market conditions.
Lesson 4: In crisis cash is king
So many businesses have had to layoff workers or simply cease to exist because of cash flow issues. In times of plenty, there might be a tendency to not pay close attention to the financial health of our business. This is especially true for small and micro-enterprises. I hope that this one lesson serves us well as we move forward, as I can assure you that there will be other crises.
Lesson 5: Redesigning Teams
I have looked at companies grapple with who they should keep. At the heart of any business success is people. Many of our hiring efforts are made without the proper scientific data, we put people in positions where they are least capable, and this crisis has exposed that weakness. It is painful at any time to terminate people, but if you want to come out on top of this crisis, you want team members who share your values and who want you to succeed beyond their paycheque.
Lesson 6: Technology is here to stay
Many of the laws that govern how business is conducted has never had to deal with a situation as we have now. So, yes, I understand the resistance on the part of lawmakers and other traditionalists to want things to remain the same. Technology is now going to become an integral part of how we do business. Virtual meetings are going to disrupt company travel, virtual conferences and summits are going to become part of our natural landscape. Instead of resisting technology, businesses should be seeking ways that they can use technology to make them more efficient.
Lesson 7: Honesty and Ethics
A crisis presents many instances for us to cut corners and be less than honest with our stakeholders and give our ethics a break. A crisis also offers the best time for our honesty and ethics to be on display. To make things work during this time, I have had to collaborate with a host of different people. And in every one of those dealings, I have been honest and upfront about what is happening in my business, and that has created so many opportunities for us.
½: Social Value
What is your social value at this time? Are you only concerned about your bottom line? One important lesson I have learned in the last month is that of my social value. How am I helping others to cope during this time? Am I using my time to help equip others? As a business, it is essential to note that during a crisis, your social value is more critical than your economic value. Being socially valuable now opens avenues for sales going forward.
Things will continue to change and evolve, we need plans, and we need strategies, but keep in mind that those plans and strategies must remain flexible and adaptive. What is required now is for us to have leaders who are strategic, but more than anything else, we need leaders who are also human.
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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net
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