Senior Vice President & GM, Small Business at Dell Technologies.
You’ve probably heard people talk about preparing for a post-pandemic world or make predictions for how the business world will evolve in the coming months and years. Like everyone else, I can’t wait for the economy to reopen in full, but in light of the recent resurgence in Covid-19 cases, it’s important to recognize that it’s probably still far too early to conceive of a “post”-pandemic world.
In some ways, it isn’t all bad news. The stock market seems to be having a bit of a heyday — Q2 2020 turned out to be the best quarter since 1998, 4.8 million U.S. jobs were added in June and investors and experts are showing signs of optimism.
Yet here in the U.S. and elsewhere, uncertainty prevails: When the country first went into lockdown, as of April 2020, more jobs had been lost over the course of six weeks than were created between 2010 and 2018. We may be on the road to economic recovery, but we’re starting from a long way back.
I’ve been working with business leaders for more than 20 years and advising them on future-proofing their operations. Normally, this has meant optimizing their technology so that it powers their businesses and creates a seamless experience. But in 2020, being future-proofed has proven less important than being shock-proof, and businesses are focusing on the short-term by bracing against unknowns and weathering unpredictable events.
So what exactly does responding to uncertainty look like? Here’s some advice I’ve been sharing with my clients, colleagues and community.
All businesses are concerned about their capital right now, but your first priority should be people — if you put people first, revenue opportunities will follow.
Prioritize your people with the following initiatives:
1. Ensure you have open communication channels with customers so you can respond to their evolving needs, whether that’s by digitizing a service or doubling down on e-commerce. Consumer spending is starting to show some signs of recovery, but 67% of Americans still said they’d be uncomfortable in a retail clothing store in May — and for restaurants, that number is 78%. Overall, recent reports by Reuters (via Forbes) show that 81% of Americans surveyed are very or somewhat concerned about Covid-19.
2. Empower your employees to work from wherever they feel safest, and ensure they have access to the tools they need to work effectively and collaboratively. Covid-19 has sped up changes to how we work; several companies have already committed to making remote work an option indefinitely, while many are preparing for a hybrid model that includes working remotely and in an office. Examine the policies you’ve implemented and how they can turn into long-term strategic benefits for your teams.
3. Foster a sense of connection and solidarity with your stakeholders, both internally and externally. For your team, that might mean a virtual happy hour or an Ask Me Anything session that your leadership hosts. For customers and partners, craft tactful messaging around the steps you’re taking to promote well-being in your community.
Prepare To Pivot
If you’ve experienced a drop in demand for your products or services, sometimes the best way forward is to pivot your offerings. Growing businesses are a wellspring of innovation and can be remarkably adaptable when the right opportunity appears.
One business that I’ve had the pleasure of working with recently is a startup focused on harnessing the power of technology to prevent food waste and end global hunger. With the onset of Covid-19, the founder and CEO adjusted her business model by leveraging social media and mobile technologies to generate awareness and collect food donations.
Another customer is a great example of a company making a positive impact under enormous pressure. When the U.S. federal government placed a massive order for critical care ventilators, the company had to rapidly scale up its production of ventilators and are well on their way to filling the federal order.
As our way of being continues to shift, businesses should be thinking about how and where they can build resilience and redeploy their existing resources. Where others see roadblocks, successful entrepreneurs see opportunities to translate high-potential ideas into high-impact business plans.
Scale To Meet Every Demand
As the senior vice president and general manager of small business at a company that offers cloud solutions, I’ve always been a big proponent of cloud computing and the benefits that a hybrid IT infrastructure can bring to businesses of all sizes. In many ways, cloud computing, both public and private, is what has enabled the global workforce to work from anywhere during the pandemic. With a hybrid cloud infrastructure, companies can utilize both public and on-premises solutions to store and share data and manage workloads. This delivers necessary flexibility to the organization, as they can place workloads in the optimal cloud to meet business and application requirements.
Now that so many of our workforce and customer interactions have migrated online, it is also essential that businesses secure and protect everything. According to a report from the World Economic Forum, cyberattacks and data fraud are the third biggest threats that risk professionals identified; as this ongoing challenge impacts our economic outlook, SMB organizations would do well to prioritize security going forward.
From supply chain and operations to technology optimization, there’s nothing the pandemic hasn’t impacted. But we’re seeing businesses automate processes where necessary and lean into digital transformation, perhaps months or even years before they were ready — and as a result, they’re finding fundamental ways to not only keep the lights on, but to grow and thrive.
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