Described as the greatest challenge likely to be experienced by this generation, the current COVID-19 pandemic has decimated the UK economy and transformed how many businesses work and operate.
However, despite the destruction caused, there have also been countless stories of entrepreneurs and business leaders working hard to battle for survival, be that completely pivoting their product or service offering to fulfil new consumer demand, or changing how they work to save costs, jobs and customer losses.
The truth is, is that success in business isn’t measured by how you run the company when everything is going well, but how you rise to the challenge and battle for survival when under threat. This is where the biggest lessons lie and where we as leaders will find the biggest opportunity for growth and improvement.
That said, what are the main lessons business leaders can learn from COVID-19 so far? And how could these lessons improve business operations moving forwards?
Technology and flexibility
As Lockdown measures were announced, businesses across the country were forced to adapt where and how they worked, with staff members switching their office desk for the kitchen table.
For the organisations without the right infrastructure in place, a significant investment in laptops, video conferencing and advanced telecommunication systems followed, enabling staff to continue to do their jobs from the comfort of their homes.
With the latest stats revealing that COVID-19 has accelerated digital strategy within UK businesses by 5 years, the lesson here is clear: With technology, comes flexibility and under the growing threat of local lockdowns or a second wave, business owners need to be ready and have a clear plan in place for how they will operate remotely for the long-term, should they need and choose to.
No sales team? No sales
Since launching my digital marketing agency, Climb Online, I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with hundreds of different business owners, large and small, and can honestly say that despite their success the majority do not have a dedicated sales team in place.
This may not have been an issue pre-COVID, but I can bet that in a fight to source and win new customers during the peak of the pandemic, it proved a challenge. Bottom line, it is impossible to really scale a business without a dedicated and proven sales team in place.
Therefore, for businesses still trying to claw back revenue and rebuild what has been lost, an effective sales function is the right place to start. Not only will it improve your chances of survival, but it will also provide the opportunity for your business to grow and dominate your industry sector long-term.
Don’t ‘Go dark’
History has shown us that the businesses who retract out of fear during an economic downturn, are those who will struggle and take longer to recover.
Despite this, millions of businesses halted, retreated and closed their doors at the start of lockdown to only realise months later that it would take a significant amount of effort to rebuild some 3-4 months later.
The lesson here is that to survive during challenging periods, you as business leaders need to maintain consistent communication with existing and potential customers and push forwards with your marketing strategy, cutting other unnecessary suppliers if budgets are tight. Those who ‘go dark’ reduce their chances of survival, whereas those who push forwards have a greater opportunity to disrupt and dominate.
Cash is still king
We’ve all heard of the phrase ‘Cash is King’ and as we continue to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic, it couldn’t be more relevant. Why? Unfortunately, there will be millions of businesses that won’t come out the other side, but this won’t be as a result of their inability to service clients or provide a poor product offering, it will be down to challenges with cashflow.
Without cash, businesses struggle to pay staff, invest in marketing or maintain operational costs. Taking decisive steps such as reducing costs and eliminating or shortening payment terms with customers will help overcome this challenge, whilst providing the opportunity to build a more robust organisation sure to survive long-term.
90% is showing up
We’ve all had those mornings when we wake up and don’t feel like going into the office. However, the difference between those who make it in business and those who don’t, is simply the diligence and determination to show up and work through all challenges, each and every day.
Quitting may seem like the easy option, but it’s a decision that will last forever. It’s, therefore, important to realise that the current COVID-19 pandemic is likely to be the greatest challenge you will experience in business during your lifetime, which means if you can continue to show up and work through this, you will be able to work through anything.
In the words of the late Kobe Bryant, Everything negative ‘ pressure, challenges ‘ is an opportunity to rise