At this time last year, you probably had big plans for 2020, and all signs pointed toward one of the best years ever. And then the coronavirus hit and began spreading — leading to a global pandemic and a huge economic disruption.
No one can predict the future. But what you can do is prepare and position your company to be ready for disruptions. Here are five things you can start doing right now to future-proof your business.
- Cover your basics. Make sure your company has a strong foundation. Is your brand strong, current and relevant? In 2020, many brands had to do a deep refresh to get rid of dated and anachronistic graphics, names or taglines. Make sure your brand is ready for the future. Do you have a written, updated crisis plan? If not, now is the time to create one. What about your technology? Security and maintenance are more critical than ever as more business functions become digital and employees work remotely.
- Strengthen internal communications. A team with good morale and dedication to the company’s mission and brand is key to making your firm recession-proof, crisis-proof and even pandemic-proof. Building that morale is largely a function of how you communicate with your team. Frequent, clear and authentic internal communication about what’s happening with the company is important in stable times and builds a bank of trust between you and your team. That way, when you must address a crisis — accusations, or an accident, or announce reductions in force, pay cuts, or a business pivot — your team is ready to listen, believe and act.
- Anticipate trends in your industry: The companies best prepared for 2020 were those that already had a thumb on the pulse of consumer behavior in their industry. Any crisis or market disruption has the potential to accelerate trends already afoot. For example, videoconferencing was a nascent trend for every business until COVID-19 kicked it into high gear. Online shopping was already strong, and then the coronavirus outbreak pushed even brick-and-mortar strongholds like groceries and restaurants into online ordering and delivery models. Stay informed on top trends in your industry and think about how you’ll respond if they speed ahead quickly. How can you make sure you won’t be left behind?
- Listen to your customers. There is no information more valuable than concrete customer feedback. Often, changes in overall consumer behavior or market shifts are revealed first in customer feedback. You can’t fix problems or correct perceptions you are unaware of. Are you actively collecting feedback from your customers? If not, put at least a small program in place to formally capture their opinions and experiences. Be sure to regularly review the information you collect so you can immediately address negative feedback. And use the feedback to develop best practices.
- Drive innovation. It can be tempting to go into safe mode after a year like 2020. But if the past year offers one takeaway, it’s that having innovations in various stages of development — ideas that can be rolled out if a surprise spike in demand or a change in market conditions occurs — is a backstop for lost revenue from those disruptions. Don’t let good ideas sit on the shelf; act on them and keep them advancing in your pipeline.
As you take your company forward this year, remember, expect the best, but prepare for anything.
Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer of GREENCREST