Business Only Stops When Businesses Stop

In this pandemic, theatres are empty, conferences have been cancelled, the great British public are largely staying at home and many businesses are struggling to decide on their next steps. But just like previous recessions, bold businesses are leaning in to learn, communicate and differentiate themselves in the turmoil.

The market needs certainty

This is a truism that has been well worn in recent years as some businesses put off the strategic decisions and initiatives they’d previously kicked down the road because of the Brexit referendum, the election, and then the election after that.

The global outbreak of COVID-19 will affect each and every business, but not in the same way.

According to MarketWatch health-care jobs are ‘recession-proof’, the cost of business for manufacturing and construction companies will increase due to supply-chain disruptions, restaurants have been hit by a drop in custom as consumers stock up at stay at home and as people continue to delay travel plans, service-industry workers are facing difficult times ahead.

Tech and the city

I saw first-hand how the City of London quietened by the day as proactive knowledge-based businesses shut up shop and asked employees to work from home. For these businesses, the technology they have invested in in recent years is coming into its own and demonstrating value well beyond day-to-day collaboration.

Communicating in a crisis

I have been really impressed with how my clients – mainly large, global professional services firms of one sort or another – have proactively communicated with their employees, customers and suppliers around Coronavirus and business continuity plans.

Some of my clients have gone further still, and have developed new content and insight around, for example, Coronavirus market impacts and analysis. Those clients have been rewarded with some of the highest engagement scores they’ve ever seen.

Is this drastic uptick because, with so many cancelled meetings and postponed travel plans, we all have more time and willingness to read these types of communications?

Perhaps it is because, collectively, we are experiencing increased productivity away from the daily commute and distractions of an open plan office or open-door policy?

Whatever the reason, now is the time for bold businesses to lean in.

Business only stops when businesses stop

According to a recently leaked Goldman Sachs investee call “there will be economic damage from the virus itself, but the real damage is driven by psychology.” We don’t know what is next, and clearly some sectors will take longer to recover than others, but business leaders have a strong role to play in the market’s psychology.

Tips for bold businesses

  • Keep connected to your clients: explore new ways to communicate, such as weekly CEO updates or virtual roundtables to discuss issues and share best practice
  • Be optimistic, not alarmist: stick to the facts, acknowledge the difficulties but think outside of COVID-19, what else do clients look to your business for? Business as usual is likely to be a well-received message.
  • Lean on your marketing and communication team: now is the time to over, not under, communicate. Listen to your marketing and communication team’s advice and encourage them to come to you with ideas
  • Invest in additional interim expert support: make sure you have the right skills in the mix. Use specialist freelancers – who are dab hands at working remotely – to plug gaps. Use expert interims to step in if you are delaying recruitment decisions, getting a head start on initiatives you’ve been putting off, or specific projects you need to get over the line regardless of this global pandemic
  • Concentrate on the important things you don’t usually have enough time to concentrate on: reimagine strategy days, don’t cancel them or delay important decisions, a long-term view (and being seen to have a long-term view) is essential right now

Elizabeth Lichten is an on-demand Director providing flexible, strategic marketing and brand consultancy to organisations in flux.