12 Business Leaders on Rebuilding in the Post-Pandemic Economy
Keep an eye on the big picture.
The global health crisis has affected nearly every aspect of our lives. We can't know for certain what the economy will look like after COVID-19, but we can try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the coming months and years will be a trying time for many people across the globe. But at the same time, business leaders have an opportunity to view the upheaval as a chance to grow and retool.
Authority Magazine recently held a thought leadership interview series called "How We Plan To Rebuild In The Post-COVID Economy." We asked business leaders to answer the following questions:
"Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the post-pandemic economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization? Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?"
Below are twelve highlights from the interviews.
Adrian Rashad Driscoll
"I consider COVID-19 to be a tornado that tore everything down. Yes, it hurts and yes, we lost a lot, but you must start building at some point. We have already started building and pouring the foundation. We are setting the stage for the biggest opportunities that we have ever seen. Here is what we have done so far:
- "Partnerships — I am a CEO so I should be able speak to other CEOs, now that I have more access to direct communications with the decision makers, I’m establishing a considerable number of new partnerships.
- Bartering — There are a lot of companies that may not be very liquid right now but are offering a product or service that we need, and we can obtain in exchange for one of ours. It is a win-win.
- Content — This is something that even I have trouble with, producing enough content. I have started producing a lot more (though not as much as I should) and the engagement is through the roof. This is so important to building brand awareness.
- Housekeeping — Using 2 and 3 on the list to create and finish existing projects. There are so many projects in the pipeline that we push aside because we need to focus on money-making priorities. Now what’s the excuse?
- Building a better Adrian — I have spent so much time talking about things I want to do and creating excuses disguised as practicality. Now, I’m finishing my master’s online, polishing my Spanish, Learning piano and working on screenplays that I never finished (Lord knows why).
- I would look at this time as a blank canvas to really go for it. Think about what you need right now as a consumer, does your company offer something to make that need a little more endurable? Should your company offer something to make that need a little more endurable? There are a million things to be worried about right now, but I can guarantee that worrying has never solved one problem of yours. Find a path and take action. Also, remember this, everyone is on the same level right now. When is the last time you have seen this kind of level playing field? Can you really afford to not build right now?"
Lana Hout and Adrianna Smith, First Choice Business Brokers
"We started rebuilding as soon as the pandemic hit. The first step in our process was to take a critical look at all sales channels, product offerings, operational systems, and cash flow management plans to identify the areas that needed improvement, adaptation, and risk mitigation for immediate recovery and sustained stabilization. Where we found a problem, we created an action plan to fix it. Simultaneously, we considered whether there were better ways to do things to accomplish the same goal. As a business sales organization, retooling our messaging and marketing strategies is paramount to be a key player in the post-pandemic economy. We’re still in the middle of this process, but we continue to diversify product offerings, systemize our procedures, cut costs, and market our services online and through social media.
We would encourage others to examine their businesses and look for areas of weakness. Weaknesses could be having customer or supplier concentration, or only one sales channel. Figuring out how to generate sales in a different way has been a huge issue during this pandemic. Business owners should use this time to identify these weak areas in their businesses and start coming up with alternative solutions to minimize risk, while considering other ways to create sales opportunities. For example, if your one and only manufacturer can’t fulfill your order, what will you do? In this case, it would be wise for a business owner to establish relationships with other manufacturers. We actually have a video on our YouTube channel, The Biz Hotlist, called 'The Stress Test' that discusses this exact topic."
Ross W. Albers of Albers & Associates
"I’m focused on teamwork. Teamwork is the most potent force in any organization. If I can get all my people rowing in the same direction, then there isn’t another law firm that can compete with us. I plan to do more training on teamwork and offer my people courses to take to improve their leadership skills. The COVID-19 shutdown experience is almost like experiencing massive trauma. I’ve found that it has brought our team closer together. I think our people will look back and say, 'Remember COVID-19, and how we grew our business!'
"Stay positive. Assess your team. Figure out who’s an ideal team player and who isn’t. This experience will make some people in your organization shine and others not. Rally your team around a mantra. Repeat it daily. As a leader, be vulnerable with your staff about the challenges you are facing but explain how you’re using these challenges to grow and make changes."
Erika Nuno of Champion City
"Diversity and inclusion are at the core of our values at Champion City. With the American economy being drastically impacted, and Latinx and Black folks at the top of those most affected by this pandemic, I find it necessary to continue to ensure that D&I initiatives continue to be key in decision-making at businesses. As a business owner that is advising clients on marketing strategies and business development, it is my responsibility to ensure that this conversation is top of mind, and not human resource rhetoric. I want to make sure that we continue to work with clients that feel strongly about expressing this message, as well as introduce others to the significance of this need. I believe that in seeking to fill this larger social need, we will also grow our business as culture leaders in the marketing space.
"I encourage others to revisit their mission. Why did you start the business that you did? Reflect on those feelings and purpose. Are you still on track, does it need to be revised given our current situation, or do you need to rethink what you are doing entirely. These are difficult questions, but the sooner you get to the truth of those answers, the sooner you’ll be able to make the appropriate moves that will get you excited and ready to conquer what’s to come. Also, don’t be afraid to ask others what they are doing, how they are dealing with the situation, and share what you are experiencing. Vulnerability is a strength. We are all going through our ups and downs in various ways, and sharing those sentiments can draw you closer to those that can support you in your journey as a business owner."
Mario Veraldo, Reinvention Revolution
"When the world is focused on their screens, you have to be there. It is challenging to cover every single customer, but investing in visibility is more critical than ever. Every single business that is still standing is now online, and the winners are investing heavily in being known.
"On top of visibility, which is critical now and forever, get your technology to support what you need to do. You have a vital mission in serving your customers, and now you need to serve more of them with fewer resources, faster and better. You can only do that by deploying a layer of technology that will help you."
Author Kelly Roach
"Our market is already online. We serve entrepreneurs that are service-based businesses. A lot of them have continued to grow during this time, because they were already set up to navigate this terrain.
"As we look to the future, in terms of growth, I think we will see our company tap into individuals who are looking to make a career change, start a new business, get started on their own, more so than in the past.
"There will be so many people entering the market in the coming months. We want to help them enter the right way, rather than helping them unravel their mistakes a couple years down the road.
"Our business wasn’t directly impacted too much by the crisis, but we still want to prepare for other things that could happen in the future. So, the biggest thing we’re doubling down on is making sure that our sales systems and our sales team are really dialed in.
"If a disruption comes again, we want to have the flexibility to do whatever we need to do to generate the same business in a new and different way.
"I encourage you to live below your means, to have a really good sales system in place and to build your emergency fund. Times like these should serve as a reminder that things can change in the blink of an eye. Make sure you have a few months of financial reserves personally and a few months of operating expenses saved for your business, so if this happens again, you are prepared for some slower months.
"Additionally I’d encourage you to make investments in your business that will allow you to easily pivot if and when you need to. Now that we know a mass shut down like this can happen in a matter of days, it’s important you have the basic skills and people in place, so you can keep going, despite what’s going on in the world. That means digital offers, online programs and services, and a dialed-in online selling system is going to be critical for any and every type of business moving forward."
James Brennan of Liveli
"My priority is going to be laser focused on making sure every business model is sustainable and built with profitable growth. Productivity is also front and center. I’m learning that we can get more done with less, and that some of our old ways of doing things were just straight up inefficient — think of all the meetings that could have been emails. Now that we have been forced to streamline the way we do things, we’re seeing that there are more effective models to drive productivity.
"The key is to reevaluate. Reevaluate your 'oh sh*t' plan. Reevaluate your business model. Reevaluate your partners and your investors. Did they do the right thing when the shit hit the fan, or did they disappear? Or even worse, did they try to take advantage of the situation? No one had a model for what we’re all facing right now and we’re all braving the storm together. After this is all said and done, I think people really need to evaluate what the worst case scenario could be, and make a plan for how they can get through it."
Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls
"We do not know how long it will take for a vaccine but in planning for the future here are some trends to consider and prioritize in your budget given the new normal will likely include the following:
"Remote work is here to stay, teams working from home more. We will all need to invest more in systems and platforms that allow teams to work productively from home, access files, communicate with clients and each other, etc. It is a smart investment to stay flexible with so much uncertainty around timing, instability in the stock market, possible new viruses, etc.
"Trust and compassion above all else. I predict the most trusted leaders and brands will have a big competitive advantage in the new normal that evolves in a post-coronavirus world. Employees, customers and clients will remember who treated them well during the crisis and they will be rewarded with loyalty from earning that trust during the bad times. The current crisis has provided a stage for our political and business leaders to rise to the occasion. We have learned that it is about touching people in meaningful ways which may mean being less busy not more for a while. Online meetings, webinars, social media, etc. are a smart and productive way companies like ours can continue to have conversations that educate and inform, build relationships and move forward during this crisis period. Once we lay this groundwork it all will be in place to continue moving forward as the economy reopens and some businesses come back quicker than others. Maybe the silver lining is that this crisis reminds us that we have always needed each other and we have learned that everyone is struggling right now to find a new normal so the key is to show our humanity and compassion while we look out for one another. With Zoom, social media, cell phones, etc. We see that technology does not have to be isolating it can be used to build our real world communities and relationships, too.
"Your website is your calling card. Make sure your site is robust and can handle e-commerce traffic if necessary. Find ways to leverage content marketing, influencers, video, PPC, podcasts, webinars, etc. and find ways now to insure your site stays at the top of the search engines.
"Online marketing is the best way to reach your audience. Communication is key to all of our community, customer and employee engagement. Another pivot because of the lockdown, this is a great time to build your brand through online marketing and social media. Allocate more budget for online activities to engage your audience and prioritize it over print and events to prepare for a future with less travel for conferences and trade shows."
Moodi Mahmoud, Founder and CEO of NEXT, Business Design software
"First and foremost, I aim to establish the COVID-19 outbreak as a collective reminder for us to maintain a sense of humility, readiness, and service. Constant is never. And we must never forget that everything, literally everything, can change from one day to the next.
"As a provider of digital technologies to support innovation and transformation, we’ve experienced tremendous growth as a result of the outbreak. We’ve responded to increased demand from our existing clients wanting to keep projects going and teams productive. We’ve also onboarded new organizations seeking to establish a future-proof approach to their innovation and business transformation ambitions.
"While we go through hypergrowth in this remote-only environment, we’re also planning for a world in which hybrid work patterns — a combination of remote and co-located — will require us to further bake our digital capabilities into the fabric of our clients’ everyday lives.
"In the same way that COVID-19 has pushed the physical to embrace the digital, a post-pandemic world will require the digital to embrace the physical.
"Stay curious and ready. COVID-19 is a boomerang — that is, it has forced you to act in response to its arrival and it will require you to react in its aftermath. And if the 'hammer and the dance' projections become reality, we’ll have to do this all over again in the fall, in the winter, and in the spring, until we have a vaccine."
Kristy Lewis of Quinn Foods
"We are leaning in to just being us. Just real people on a mission to do good in the world, and we are going to tell that story in a way where it connects us to all. How do we connect to the families and people buying Quinn? What do they need right now? What are they going through? How can we show up for them and what does that look like? Humans need to be heard, seen, and our snacks play a part in their journey. Quinn brings people together, it’s a part of these small moments, whether sad or happy, happening in daily lives. We are in the hospitals, in the food banks, on the couch, at the dining room table. Quinn is a part of the journey, and as a company, we want to support and be there for them, rooting them on, in their story.
"Connect. Engage. Act. Show up during their life and support them as best we can. Build deep and meaningful relationships. We need them now more than ever."
Jeff Vierling of Tailwind Nutrition
"We’ve used the down time to iron out pain points in our internal processes, gain more efficiency and flexibility in manufacturing and fulfillment, and upgrade our website and online assets. As the economy reopens, Tailwind is preparing for an increasingly online-centric business by investing in digital marketing and partnerships, and we’re diversifying into adjacent segments in addition to our core focus on athletes. We’re also introducing new products and services targeting personal and individual fitness markets that are growing during the pandemic. We’re sharing what works with our international partners to help them rebuild as well.
"The pandemic is a big stress test for businesses and business models. Listen carefully to what it’s telling you. What strengths and positives have emerged? Can you extend those or find a way to monetize something you’ve done well? Be honest about the weaknesses revealed and address them. Are your customers still there? Did they migrate online? Meet them where they are with products and services they need. Flexibility and adaptability while maintaining your core values are the keys to thriving."
Charlie Katz is the Executive Creative Director at Bitbean.