I traveled to DC for business earlier this week. Not wanting to take irresponsible risks with COVID-19 (or the flu), I took hand sanitizer and a bag of Clorox wipes. I want to be responsible and try to stay healthy.
But as an entrepreneur, a mom, and a business advisor, I know I need to do more than just keep myself healthy. I need to lead my team, offer advice to clients and make sure my family is safe.
I've been asking business leaders whose opinions I value what they are doing to lead in this time of uncertainty. I am by no means an expert in crisis management, but I wanted to share the best advice I've received and how I am applying it:
1) Get comfortable with the facts
When the future is uncertain, start by understanding the facts. And please make sure your facts come from reputable sources.
The next step is to outline the best-, medium-, and worst-case scenarios in your big areas of uncertainty. So, for our businesses, this means running scenarios for revenue and cash dips, supply chain disruptions, and long periods of remote working. If you don’t know where to start, check out this McKinsey report published on Monday for inspiration. It outlines best-, medium-, and worst-case scenarios for big companies and also has actionable advice for each.
The team at Vecteris is fully distributed (i.e., remote), so my business scenarios have focused on revenue and cash flow. For each scenario, I wrote down the actions we could take to stay strong. Yes, things are continuing to evolve, but the act of imagining the worst-possible scenario and writing down how we might respond was incredibly comforting. I also suggest thinking through best-, medium-, and worst-case scenarios on how might the kids staying home for weeks or months impact you? What happens if travel restrictions continue? How could you manage each scenario?
The point is not to deny the facts or their seriousness. Scenario planning is both coming to terms with the facts and, more likely than not, discovering that the scenarios can be managed. Every situation, even the worst case, can be figured out, and a plan can be put in place. Or, in the words of Marie Forleo, “Everything is figure outable.”
2) Reframe the situation
In each of the scenarios (best-, medium- and even worse-case), there is always an abundance of opportunity. It could be everything from using the dip in the market to invest (I just noticed one friend fishing for small M&A targets on LinkedIn - seriously), to the opportunity to tackle long-delayed projects at home.
It is also an excellent time to shed things in your life or business that are not working. For some companies, that could be pruning the product portfolio, accelerating investment in new products or making overdue organizational changes.
It is also a great time to build new capabilities. Personally, that could be taking online courses or starting to tackle that pile of books you want to read. From a business standpoint, what could my team do with free time if business slows? I get excited thinking about having the time to create a new workshop offering, create new content, strengthen our prospect list, and the list of ideas goes on.
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…
It’s about learning to dance in the rain. – Anonymous
3) Be of Service
Being of service to others almost always helps me forget my own concerns. For example, how can I be of better service to my customers? The McKinsey report I referenced earlier has good advice about “getting closer to your customers” to find out what help customers need during this time of uncertainty rather than taking wild guesses.
Even better, be of service to those who are truly suffering. How can we help hourly workers or people who work in travel and hospitality? Or Uber and Lyft drivers? What about the homeless? Or the elderly? Some people will struggle with the community-wide isolation - what can we do to help them?
Consider dropping off needed supplies at a local homeless shelter (call first and ask what they need). Phone an elderly neighbor or relative to find out what they need. Be extra generous with tips. This is a drop in the bucket, I know, but it will help you contextualize your own situation.
With all the media coverage and social media frenzy, it's easy to start to panic and feel overwhelmed by the potential fallout. But there are things you can do to keep yourself, your family, and your business safe. I know I am feeling more prepared and ready for whatever the next few weeks or months have in store.
I would love to know what information sources you are finding useful and the steps you are taking. Please share!