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How to Scale a Company During the Pandemic Global pandemics are not the only factors that can stunt a business's ability to scale.

By Anthony Lamot Edited by Russell Sicklick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Global pandemics are not the only factors that can stunt a business's ability to scale. For example, in 2008, the housing crash impacted organizations outside the real estate industry.

Lenders were relaxing strict lending standards, driving up the costs of houses to unaffordable prices. Those who had taken on loans they couldn't afford began to default.

As a result, the stock market crashed that year (along with many other contributing factors). There was a loss in jobs, investment firms crumbled and automakers nearly went bankrupt.

Yet through all that, many companies were able to scale, despite the crisis. How? Simple, people still need goods and services. Scaling in the face of crisis requires leveraging what people need (or want).

The Great Recession taught organizations a valuable lesson. Even companies that didn't offer affordable delectable treats could scale during the last major crisis.

Scaling during a pandemic: what the Great Recession taught us

Maintenance services also scaled during the Great Recession of 2008. Everyone knows these services are rarely cheap. However, consumers opted for repairing their current vehicles since purchasing a new one wasn't as feasible.

Other industries that benefited from the Great Recession include:

  • Bars
  • Restaurants
  • Legal services (especially bankruptcy attorneys)
  • Grocery stores
  • Retail consignment shops

Even realtors could scale their firms because foreclosures were at an all-time high. They could help clients purchase foreclosed properties at costs below value.

The Great Recession prepared companies for managing during a crisis. Several resources and articles discuss how to scale during a pandemic. If an organization can utilize these resources and the recommendations outlined in this article, growth is possible, even in the face of a global crisis.

Related: 3 Tips on How to Grow and Scale Your Company During the Pandemic

Five recommendations on how to scale during a pandemic

The Great Recession of 2008 wasn't the only time in recent history that companies could scale during a crisis. Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005. With it came a serious economic impact.

Katrina adversely impacted U.S. economic growth in the months following the natural disaster. It devastated local businesses and choked out energy supplies.

Louisiana was the country's gateway to oil, gasoline and natural gas sources. Prices skyrocketed as a result, and consumers all over the country felt the sting.

Yet, companies located in the devastated Gulf Coast and around the rest of the country were able to scale despite the devastation. Again, many ask how?

Here's how:

1. Market research will provide insights into customers' needs (and wants)

Let's use the Cadbury company as an example. Why was it able to scale when other candy companies struggled? It did more than simply meet the needs of their customers by providing affordable confections.

During the Great Recession, market research set it apart from others in its industry. It discovered that consumers wanted a simple treat they could afford. So, Cadbury eliminated investments in new products and stuck to what they knew people liked.

In a pandemic (or any financial crisis), it's essential to keep in touch with your customers. That way, companies better understand how buying decisions change in a crisis. They can then adjust their business to meet those needs.

2. Having a flexible workforce drives efficiency and productivity

Companies that have a remote or hybrid workforce — meaning workers come in only a few days each week and the rest of the time work remotely — save on real-estate costs.

It's no secret that commercial office space is costly, especially in larger cities. When all (or most) of the staff works from home at least a few days a week, less space at the office is necessary.

That is just one of the ways companies save with a remote or hybrid workforce. Others include:

  • Utility savings
  • Office repairs
  • Buying supplies and hardware

This list is not at all comprehensive. Every company has items they could add to the list depending on their operational essentials.

One major contributing factor is employee productivity. Over 77 percent of remote workers are more productive when working from home.

3. Scalable cloud-based tech stacks (like Marketing Cloud data views) enable growth

One key element to a company's growth plan is to have a scalable cloud-based tech stack. Employees must be able to access data assets at any time and from anywhere.

One such tech stack would be Marketing Cloud data views, also known as data extensions. Users can access data and use that information to develop business strategies that can:

  • Increase sales
  • Assist in marketing content generation
  • Improve customer engagement
  • Deliver crucial insights on buying behaviors

Again, this list is not comprehensive. How a company can use Marketing Cloud data extensions depends on the nature of their business.

Business processes, data points and KPIs are all there. All a company has to do is leverage this information into its business strategies

Related: It's Time to Prepare for a Multi-Cloud Future

4. Engagement beyond face-to-face interactions requires quality content

One element to business that Hurricane Katrina and the Great Recession did not adversely impact is face-to-face communications. Before the recent global pandemic, no one had heard the term social distancing.

It created a dilemma for salespeople who struggled to close deals when they could no longer meet with people in person. The solution to this problem is content.

Producing quality content for digital marketing channels is necessary for businesses to remain profitable in the face of a socially distanced crisis.

Digital marketing was no longer one of the many marketing strategies companies used. It quickly became the only solution for many businesses.

Furthermore, organizations need an effective system for publishing this content. Engagement with clients via social media is one of the best ways to stay connected with customers.

The rise of TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram/Facebook Reels (and Stories) allows companies to create little mini commercials to reach their target audiences. This brand awareness comes at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising channels (TV, billboards, radio ads, etc.).

5. Shifting towards skill-building leads to gains in proficiency

With the rapid change to remote workforces and digitalization, companies must invest in advancing the skills of their employees. For example, remote staff will need basic knowledge of an IT infrastructure to manage their networks at home.

Likewise, managers rely on their employees to use critical thinking skills to handle complex situations. Since employees are not in the office to get assistance from a colleague or manager, companies need to train them to manage these situations themselves.

Those are just a few of the numerous ways businesses need to implement skill-building to ensure their company is future-ready for whatever comes next. These include soft s advanced cognitive skills, such as:

  • Leadership
  • Decision making
  • Project management
  • Adaptability and continuous learning
  • Basic digital skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Data-analysis skills
  • Quantitative and statistical skills
  • Complex data processing

Related: When Planning for the Future, Keep Your Past in Perspective

Scaling during any crisis is possible, be ready

The bottom line is that organizations can scale at any time with effective strategies. A company can implement them whether there is a global pandemic, an economic crisis or a natural disaster impacting business.

It does require planning, and companies need to start doing so today if they want to scale in the face of a pandemic (or any other crisis). Otherwise, the next major crisis may cripple their business instead.

Anthony Lamot

CEO and Co-Founder of DESelect

Anthony Lamot spent over seven years in CRM and marketing automation. At Toyota Motor Europe, Lamot helped roll out SFMC to 30 markets in less than a year. Before that, he founded a startups mentoring program and a booking site for sailing trips. He holds an MSc in work psychology (MCL).

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