26 Non-Negotiables, Opportunities & Tips for Surviving and Thriving During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic

Grant Ian GambleBy Grant Ian Gamble | April 28, 2020

Grant Ian Gamble is an international business growth consultant, executive coach, author and keynote speaker. He works in a broad array of industries helping companies build teams, navigate change and drive growth.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on business and the economy is unprecedented. 

Businesses negatively affected by COVID-19 are faltering. Even the most robust companies will need to fight their way back to their pre-pandemic best, and marginal ones will likely not re-emerge from the crisis.

Companies positively affected by COVID-19 also need to chart new courses. That might mean establishing new supply chains, recruiting additional talent, or retooling their business to cope with massive spikes in sales and activity.

As businesses recalibrate, strategize, and pivot, one thing remains clear: these are unchartered waters for everyone.

There are some non-negotiables and common denominators across industries and sectors, but for the most part this is a unique set of circumstances that demand novel solutions and strategies. 

I have detailed some non-negotiables, opportunities, and tips below:

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NON-NEGOTIABLES

1. Take all necessary measures to protect your team members and customers.

This is ‘Job 1’. This includes developing and maintaining smart, thoughtful communications with your team, customers, community, and stakeholders. Keeping these essential partners in your business well informed and demonstrating empathy for their particular circumstances is paramount. We are all embroiled in this mess and retaining key team members and as many of your customers as possible is critical to coming out of this crisis relatively intact. These communications should always be empathetic and include proactive steps you’re taking to protect them specifically. Check out the Virtual Standup concept to really stay in touch with your team on a regular basis.

2. Abide by all local, regional and federal guidelines as applicable.

This seems passé, but these guidelines are a moving target, and staying abreast of updates is critical.

3. Know what support and aid packages are available to you and your business and take full advantage of any applicable assistance.

This will continue to evolve as stimulus efforts continue to unfold, but make sure your best person is on this. It could be the difference between getting through this mess or being more debris in its wake.

4. Be flexible.

You will need to show empathy and flexibility for your team, vendors, partners, and collaborators. Equally, you will need flexibility in return from lenders, landlords, vendors, and your team. Don’t be afraid to ask for leniency or moratoriums on rent, repayments, or other normally non-negotiable expenses.

5. Adjust your strategic plan.

What you had documented in January is almost definitely completely obsolete. I typically recommend a strategic plan doesn’t stretch (in detail) past 90 days. That might be reduced to 30 days, or less, at present. Here are 13 More Tips and thoughts on survival strategies in these uncertain times. 

6. Cut any non-essential spending if you haven’t already.

A logical end to this crisis is yet to be determined and therefore we should plan for the worst and hope for the best. For many companies, the definition of non-essential will vary, but if the intended spend won’t fortify your position with your team, your customers, or the market, really question whether it’s necessary.

7. Help your sales team recalibrate how they do business.

This is a key area I’ve been working on with my clients. Giving sales teams the tools and support to modify how they maintain and even build their business is critical. This can range from simple tips on the backdrop and dress code for virtual calls all the way through to specific training on virtual platforms and tools. Investing in online and remote tools, training, and systems for your team as a whole is critical. These might include tools like GoToMeeting, Zoom, Skype, Slack, Asana, Trello, Basecamp, Google Suite, etc.

8. Amplify your focus and communication on hygiene and cleanliness. 

A simple example would be our family’s  AirBNB. We’re informing potential guests of our cleaning regimes, e.g. we space three days between guests, sterilize all bedding and towels, clean all surfaces and contact points with Clorox, etc. These types of assurances can address concerns and position you for opportunities that still exist in your market.

9. Ensure you have amended your standard operating procedures for the current circumstances. 

This may mean implementing new checks and balances, e.g. systems of time tracking or activity management. If your company and team members don’t normally function in a remote environment, you’ll need guidelines and tools to assist all parties to stay on track.

10. Restructure your workforce.

Much of this may have already happened and can range from retrenchments to recruiting. On the retrenchment side, I encourage you to keep in close contact with those key team members you’ve had to release. Keep them updated to the best of your ability so they are most likely to return when things normalize and you need them. If you’re recruiting, don’t hire out of desperation. Easy to say and hard to do. Maybe your hiring cycle needs to shorten, but the usual checks and balances should remain. A poor hire can hurt you just as much now as ever.

OPPORTUNITIES

1. Help your team members stay healthy and active by encouraging them to exercise at home and take care of themselves. 

Hosting some team ‘get-togethers’ so they stay connected can be fun and rewarding, too. A nice touch one of my clients did was to send every team member a bottle of wine and he invited everyone to join (with their families) in an online Company Happy Hour to raise a glass. Check out some ideas of things for you and your team members to do during the lockdown in this blog post.

2. Reinforce your relationship with your customers through thoughtful communications, offers, free services, and other bonuses.

A client of mine whose business premises are closed at present has been doing a ‘Daily Update’ for their members with recipes, how to stay sane during the lockdown tips, and health tips and ideas. This is keeping them connected to their customers and adds value to the relationship.

3. Find a digital version of what you do.

While e-commerce was pervasive before the crisis, it has become a non-negotiable since. For example, many health clubs are providing online classes now, some social clubs are having regular online Happy Hours, and a nitro coffee company I work with has started up nitro coffee bean subscriptions. Get creative with your online opportunity!

4. Get to marketing your business while the competition hunkers down or regroups.

There may be opportunities to scoop up customers who have become disconnected from their usual sources of supply. However, ensure any campaign you do conduct is not seen as opportunistic. It needs to be appropriately empathetic and acknowledge the current situation we all face. Being tone-deaf to people’s predicaments can create the opposite effect to what you’re seeking. If you need help with your messaging, consult a marketing agency.

5. Consider pivoting into a sector that may not be in your usual line of business. 

One of my printing clients used their promotions business to procure masks and protective wear and shore up the slowdown in their printing business. Another one of my clients is a social club and in order to keep their kitchen team on the payroll, they provided their members with a food credit and started providing curbside pickup for take-out.

6. Let your customers and community know the things you are doing to help in these troubling times. 

Many companies are providing free services, making donations, and offering credits or such, to maintain and grow goodwill.

7. This is an incredible time to reconnect with former customers and maybe win them back. 

Even if you can’t get their business now, it may be possible when this crisis subsides.

8. Get that project done that you’ve been thinking about.

One of my clients took advantage of the downturn to move their warehouse. Another is taking this opportunity to repaint their entire facility. Both of these things would have been really difficult under normal circumstances. 

9. Engage with your customers (and former customers) to get feedback and gain perspective.

Many of your customers have more availability than ever and you can do some great market research and develop relationships in the downtime. 

TIPS

1. Maintain positive momentum.

It is easy to let inertia wane and succumb to all the negative press around the economic outlook for businesses. Stay positive and keep actively pursuing opportunities as they emerge. My consulting business slowed enormously at the onset of the pandemic, so I focused on writing and producing content to keep momentum up. I completed my book, “The Affinity Principle,” and it went off to the printers during the lull. This would not have been possible if I had a full book of business.

2. Focus your energy on the most rewarding activities.

It’s easy to get distracted in times like these, but the rewards will come when we channel our energy to those things that bring the greatest returns. Opportunities will arise and decisiveness is critical as things are moving fast. Retention of customers and of your team is likely the best use of available resources at present, but other opportunities will likely present themselves.

3. Don’t be afraid to try some things that you might not normally consider.

The current climate may be a great petri dish for ‘trial balloons’ on products or projects. Some companies are crowdsourcing for funding, others are giving their products away, or offering discounts they would not normally consider. It is important not to do these things out of desperation, but out of the desire to traverse this rocky landscape.

4. It is also a great time to explore those businesses that are booming and see if you can appropriately leverage their growing sales into momentum for you and your company. 

Here’s a list of business sectors that are thriving at present.

5. Don’t be afraid to project out beyond the pandemic.

Start laying the foundations for post-pandemic success. This can help your team look past the present predicament and set the table for your resurgence.

6. Think about doing some team building events online.

There are some fun online games and Virtual Escape Rooms that could offer some respite to your team in these troubling times. Build your own quiz around your business and team on Kahoot and play it with your team.

7. Share memories with your team and customers.

This is a great time to reflect, and your team and customers will love it. Post pictures, tell stories, have some fun with things that happened before the lockdown, and stay in people’s positive consciousness.

It’s easy for F.E.A.R. to sneak into your thoughts and influence your actions and responses to this crisis. 

Truth is, some companies will not come out of this crisis intact. 

If you can focus your will and direct your efforts toward the inevitable opportunities that come out of a crisis like this, you stand a very good chance of rising above your competition. 

Most importantly, remember ‘Job 1’ and many of the other elements will fall into place as the new order of business unfolds.

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