This year saw an unprecedented disruption in business around the world. Governments issued stay-at-home orders, companies shuttered offices and sent employees home, and millions of jobs disappeared overnight. Leaders have reacted as quickly as possible by going remote, rewriting policies and procedures, and rebuilding damaged supply chains, but things have yet to return to any semblance of normalcy.
Economists, government officials, consumers, and business owners are all hoping for a V-shaped economic recovery. Unfortunately, lackluster September job growth could be a sign that recovery will take longer and be harder to achieve than expected. And the delay in the second round of government aid will likely exacerbate the issues you’re facing as a business leader.
Perhaps the most alarming possibility is a potential surge in COVID-19 cases as the year comes to a close. A second round of infections might require further drastic measures, crippling businesses that are already struggling and causing some to shut down permanently. That’s why it’s vital that you make preparations that center on pandemic recovery in 2021. By preparing for the worst, you can guarantee you’ll stay afloat come the new year.
- Reset expectations for your team.
In the current business climate, you can’t expect pre-pandemic results. Pushing your team too hard will lead to burnout, which will exacerbate your problems. Instead, encourage your team to maintain a healthy work-life balance to increase productivity across the board. When Guardian CEO Deanna Mulligan noticed her team was overworking during the pandemic, she mandated no-work evenings and required employees to take vacation days.
You should also let your team members know that they can speak up whenever they’re drowning in responsibilities. When employees feel like they can ask for help, it removes a significant mental block and helps them perform to their true potential. Sue Bingham, founder and principal of HPWP Group, says, “If you assume your employees work hard, care about the company’s success, and have integrity, they are likelier to act accordingly.”
- Prioritize sales and finances.
Taking care of your employees is critical, but it’s equally vital to focus on your company’s bottom line. After all, without sales and revenue, your business isn’t a business. Unfortunately, lagging job growth in September and October might indicate that the post-pandemic recovery is slowing, so sales will be more difficult to close.
According to Jeff Winters, founder and CEO of Sapper Consulting, the solution is to prove your value sooner and treat all points of contact like the final buyer. “In our current climate, all deals are receiving more scrutiny from financial decision makers,” he says. “This means that more people will be involved. Sellers should assume that everyone is a champion, or a person who will share your information internally. At Sapper Consulting, our experience with sales in recent months has shown us that there are no final decision makers right now. Even individuals who have unilateral authority are sharing the responsibility with teams and committees.”
- Be intentional about your use of time.
Evaluate what focus would benefit your business the most. Do you need to decrease your cost of goods sold? Then cut down unnecessary expenditures. Are you losing revenue? Increase your marketing efforts. Is your customer engagement lagging? Rethink your buyer personas. You have to allocate time to your biggest problems to ensure your company’s survival and growth.
Don’t be afraid to also set aside time for high-level thinking, especially because you’re no longer commuting or going on business trips. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink discovered early on in the pandemic that he needed to schedule ”flight time” into his weekly routine to preserve his creativity. It sounds unorthodox, but it’s a great way to avoid filling your workdays with back-to-back videoconferences.
- Give grace to yourself and your employees.
The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on our lives. As a leader, you need to recognize that fact and respond to difficult situations with grace and poise. When your employees are struggling to perform while juggling complex childcare situations, for example, look for opportunities to ease their burdens. Reach out personally and let your team know you’re there to help. This kind of demonstration will go a long way in easing their anxieties about the future.
While you’re looking after your team, don’t forget to look after yourself. Practice self-care and cultivate your own work-life balance. The pandemic has caused many business leaders to feel like they’re on a sinking ship, but working constantly will only lower the quality of your output and send that ship to the bottom of the ocean. By focusing on what matters and pacing yourself appropriately, you’ll find that you have more control over outcomes than you might think.
If you’re like most people, you’re ready to put 2020 behind you. That’s understandable, but things won’t magically get better when you hang a new calendar on the wall. Instead, use these four steps to be intentional about recovering from the pandemic in 2021.
At Sapper, we addressed the threat of the COVID pandemic by starting with an entire risk burndown. For more information on the steps we took and how you can recession-proof your organization check out our Recession Proof Your Business guide here.