March 30, 2020

Business During COVID-19: A New Normal

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The COVID-19 infection and fatality numbers are staggering and change hour by hour around the world. Americans are learning new terms that weren’t previously in our syntax or regularly used: shelter in place; social distancing; non-essential businesses; PPE; voluntary quarantine, flatten the curve, and more. It’s easy to get confused and anxious about every report we see, or hear and that’s ok.

There is an entire generation of Americans who’ve never known national tragedy and challenge at this level. Those of us with gray hair remember 911, Vietnam, the Energy Crisis of the ’70s, and those most vulnerable among us remember the Great Depression, Polio, Korea, World War II and harder times. However, none of us have seen the level of impact that has impacted healthcare nationwide, the economy, unemployment, small business, travel, education, states competing for the same supplies, and the interruption of daily life as we’ve known it. This is indeed a “New Normal”.

Imagine being employed by or owning a “non-essential” business. What? Every business is essential to those who own them or work for them. Yes, I understand what the term refers too, but the loss of a job or company is stressful enough without the anxiety of just trying to survive. Businesses are being hit hard by an enemy none of us can see. And workers on the front lines of public interaction like grocery and gas clerks, delivery drivers, and every first responder risk their lives every day.

It can be depressing, stressful and overwhelming, but look around and take note as we see our finest rising to the challenge. In America times of great challenge have always been opportunities for innovation, creativity, and ingenuity. Scientists, researchers, manufacturers, epidemiologists, biologists, engineers, and so many disciplines are working together like never before. Competition, politics, and profits are being put aside as we work together to overcome this challenge. Yes, there will always be one or two bad actors, but the majority are coming together in a unified effort. It’s one of our best attributes as a united people. How can your company, or business become a positive force or address this challenge?

7 Things You Can Do in Your Business During COVID-19
(Presupposing you have already put together a financial plan)

  1. Have a company-wide plan for best/safe practice protocols that protect your team and customers. Those should include compliance with all local, state, federal and governing agencies (e.g, CDC, FDA, USDA, OSHA) advisories and protocols. You should include self-reporting from sick workers to stay at home, handwashing,
  2. Make a statement on the virus and your business. Not to promote your business, or appear to be greedy but in an effort to communicate what you are doing, or the status of your business for customers and team members.
  3. Seek Partnerships. Now is a great time to come together as Ford, 3M, and G.E. have done in their efforts to transform manufacturing to produce much-needed PPE supplies and ventilators. Distilleries transforming to produce hand sanitizer and many more. How can your company, or business partner with others to find solutions to a mutual problem, or challenge facing business during COVID-19?
  4. Communicate regularly with your team and customers. Open channels provide peace of mind, seek input and feedback to provide valuable information and ideas while seeking solutions.
  5. Take stock of your company–Now is the time to analyze and examine with your leadership team what you are doing well, what needs to be improved or dropped, adjust goals, examine your digital marketing and other marketing efforts, dream, analyze customer care, create, innovate and brainstorm. Do it through Zoom, Skype, etc. and keep your team going and focused. This will challenge your people, provide value and help move beyond the constant news.
  6. Support your community. Express gratitude to First Responders, find ways to thank and honor them as well as helping those agencies or causes assisting those with the greatest needs. Ask your team to generate ideas.
  7. Encourage those working remotely to take breaks from their computer screen to stretch, walk, etc. Remind them you know remote work can be challenging and let them know you understand it’s not ideal, but they are needed.

These are unchartered waters for all of us. Be an encourager, innovator, collaborator, friend, and a good neighbor. The first place to start in all of this is within each of us. You can do it and you aren’t alone!

Monty Carter, Storyteller
Webspeak Media
Photos: Unsplash and the CDC

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