In the Eye of the Storm: Surviving and Thriving through Crisis

In the Eye of the Storm: Surviving and Thriving through Crisis

Over the past two weeks, I have gotten invitations to multiple webinars, Zoom meetings, WebEx calls and articles, all with advice from “experts” on how business can navigate the current crisis, and what they believe will happen once we emerge from lockdown. While well-intentioned, the advice, in my view, is all coming from people on the outside looking in. They aren’t running a business, but rather are looking at trends and behaviors to formulate their opinions.

For the past seven weeks, I have been on the inside looking out. Back in January, one of our clients (a high-end home furnishings brand) asked me to step in and lead their in-house creative team for three months during a leadership transition. This wasn’t new to us; we’ve helped clients weather change from turnarounds to brand launches to bankruptcies. So as before, I worked on-site, embedded, through mid-March.
Then everything shut down.
Since then, I have been on daily calls with the team, acting as a trusted advisor and partner from within the organization. Demonstrating why and how a brand reset can and should happen. And I am here to say, these past seven weeks have been unprecedented. From my perspective, it is brands like our client—who were able to quickly process what was happening, put their customers and associates first, and act decisively with a clear head and strategy—that are best surviving and thriving.

Applying these observations, I found, is the difference between weathering the storm well and floundering:

Strike the right balance. Messaging is everything. Neither ignoring the current situation nor playing too much into it is a delicate balance, and is different for every brand. Finding and speaking in an appropriate voice adds authenticity and builds trust with the customer. If you are a home brand, for instance, focusing on how to make your customers’ homes more cozy, organized and workable is a win right now. For food brands, a shift to easy, affordable home-cooked meals is your jam.

Put your associates and customers first. As I have worked with our client over these weeks, that is how we’ve started every conversation and decision path. What steps need to be taken to keep the business going in a safe, productive and responsive manner? And how can they ensure success beyond the crisis? Outlining a plan and quickly executing is what led to a speedy recovery, and protected brand loyalty.

Adapt quickly. The world is in constant change right now, and with so many variables to adjust to, the plan that worked yesterday might not be right for tomorrow. Being nimble and well-informed is critical. India is shut down for goods and samples? How are we adjusting? What does that mean for our inventory? Do we need to change the home page and planned emails? It all matters. And means an openness to change in process, structure, even perspective.

Know what to keep and what to throw away. Just as clinging to past strategies will slow your ability to adapt, it’s wrong to assume all the changes you make now are short-term. When the crisis ends, your business needs to continue under a new set of rules. Consider: is videoconferencing a stopgap, or a smart way, going forward, to save expenses while strengthening remote coworker connections?

Accept that there is no “new normal.” Yet. There has been so much speculation on what the post-COVID-19 environment will be. I am here to tell you it is ALL speculation. We just don’t know. The best we can do is look at different scenarios, monitor daily and build a plan that is flexible and adaptable. Reactive and proactive. And always putting the needs of employees and customers first. It’s how we’ll reset for this “new normal,” and the one after that, and so on.

Again, these are unprecedented times. But we will get through it, by adapting, pivoting and staying focused. I feel so fortunate to have been on the inside, able to find the good, and the lessons, in this situation, and share them with you for the future.
In the meantime, stay healthy and safe.

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