Doing Good Business in Times of Crisis

Remaining profitable has been tougher than usual the past year; companies are fighting for survival like never before, and are trying to protect the livelihoods of their people.

It is likely that the COVID-19 crisis will keep having an impact on the global economy for the foreseeable future. The rules have changed, and chances are you will find yourself facing tough questions.

Guiding principles for our current context:

  • Opportunity or opportunism? – Hard times are full of opportunities. New challenges bring new needs, whether for your existing customers or potential customers, or with entirely new markets opening up to you. Now is not the time to exploit others, but if an opportunity opens up, grabbing it and delivering real value is almost a matter of duty for you.
  • What is in your toolbox? – Your company is still in business because of the value it has created in the past. Look at leveraging your existing resources to give your customers what they need. You might be in a business that is ideally positioned to do this. If you feel, however, that you are not positioned well for the crisis, consider taking an asset-based, rather than a needs-based approach. Forget about what you lack or still need (need-based) and rather look at what you already have (asset-based).
  • Where can I help? – In times of crisis, when your customers are looking to cut costs, asking where you can help might be the better alternative when compared to asking what you can sell. Focus on value-creation for your customers – which problems can you solve for them?
  • Build the greater things now – If you find yourself in a position where business as usual is not an option, consider spending this time by building trust and credibility with your customers. This could be a great time to re-brand, push marketing, or even give some of your goods or services away for free. Consider your corporate social investment budget – a thoughtful and well-placed gesture during crisis could have a significant impact, not to mention bring with it an extra helping of goodwill.
  • Is there something outside the box? – The new cliché is the story of some company going into an entirely new direction upon the start of the crisis. You may have seen the stories – like the one about the winemaker suddenly entering the hand-sanitiser game. This kind of complete change in direction may not be for you, but is there not perhaps some wild opportunity for you to explore?
  • Keep the lights on, but keep the big picture in mind – These are not entirely “unprecedented times”. Looking at the firms that survived the 2008 economic recession, it is clear that the winners were not necessarily those who cut the deepest the fastest. You should determine the right mix of a “promotion versus prevention” strategy for you and keep both immediate survival and cash-flow in mind, along with future growth and sustainability. As far as leaner operations go – it was probably about time to trim some fat anyway.
  • Establish a new normal that sets you up for success – The things that you can put in place now (most due to necessity) could be setting you up for growth going forward. Lower cost-structures and efficiencies from learning to master virtual work and doing business online will probably bring you benefits even after these things are no longer strictly necessary.

The crisis brings with it the chance to rethink and reorganise. Most managers will see benefits from taking a very hands-on approach to sales and operations in this time, dedicating up to 80 percent of their time thereto, if not to learning or product development. Doing good business is different now, but it is not impossible. Staying profitable is the responsible thing to do.