We live in extraordinary times, but it is said that crisis shows character. That is, when a crisis occurs, a person’s true character emerges. Disruption of the kind we are experiencing now leads to a profound sense of dislocation from our normal reality. The usual state has been upset and we face some interesting choices, especially in business.
Over the last 10 days or so, I’ve spoken to dozens of business owners and seen the full spectrum of the Kübler-Ross model; shock and denial at the restriction of freedoms, frustration and depression at the realisation that things really are different and, refreshingly, the emergence of a willingness to experiment.
‘Pivoting’ is the term I’m using when business owners decide that the resources they have could be used for other things. They accept that their businesses should adopt a new model that fits the current situation. Just like the farm shop that turned itself into a drive-through to maintain social distancing, or the courier who is now delivering medicine, not parcels. It’s worth considering whether your business could pivot, perhaps by looking at the following:
- What could you offer on-line? A training company I work with has closed its classrooms, but is now promoting more than 100 on-line training courses.
- How could you provide a service now that provides an opportunity later? A landscaper could offer free virtual garden design now and potentially create opportunities for work to be done when the lockdown ends.
- How could your current or previous experience help people through the lockdown situation? I’ve seen teachers taking classes on line, or consultants offering free marketing plans to get businesses ready for the post-lockdown world.
One thing is for certain, though. Now is not the time to be selling aggressively, even if your revenue has been decimated by the lockdown. I’ve been asking business owners to consider this simple question: ‘What do you want to be remembered for?’. When this is all over, people will gravitate towards companies that listened, cared and helped, not to those that tried to sell them hand sanitiser for a tenner.
In your dealings with existing clients, business or networking colleagues, prospects and the public at large, will you be remembered for compassion and understanding, or bare-faced profiteering? Will you be remembered for inflexibility when it comes to payment terms, or putting in place sensible measures to help out someone who is struggling?
This crisis will show your (and your company’s) true character. The values you hold and the identity you create are the bedrock of your business culture. People will remember these things long after the virus has gone. Now is the time to show the world that you are a person that people can trust – you don’t want to be remembered for anything else.