With COVID-19 cases back on the rise in many parts of the world, it looks like the pandemic will continue to impact our economy for some time to come.
At the onset of the pandemic earlier this year, I gave a rallying call to my teams. I was urging them to be optimistic and see the opportunity for all of us in these unprecedented times. Now, more than six months on, we’re still feeling the weight of the virus. But I remain optimistic.
There’s no doubt that this has been a challenging time for businesses of all sizes, particularly smaller, local businesses and startups. Many new entrepreneurs came into 2020 having just launched their startup, only to have their runways cut significantly at a moment’s notice. The crisis has cast significant light on the risks of going it alone in business. And some believe it may have negatively affected society’s perception of entrepreneurship as a life choice.
Considering the decades of work that have gone into inspiring young people to achieve great things in business, that would be a great shame.
Because in crisis there is always opportunity. And for many businesses and business people, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a story of rising to and overcoming great challenge.
Business success stories during the COVID-19 pandemic
Companies like Zoom and Shopify were greatly placed to meet the new needs of the workforce and retailers respectively, and have both had a more successful 2020 than they could have ever imagined. Streaming platforms, food delivery networks and cloud computing technologies have also reaped the benefits of both our work and leisure time being spent almost exclusively at home.
For those less fortunate, it’s been a case of adapting fast – and many businesses still face an uphill battle. Retail businesses, in particular, have been forced to catch up by launching ecommerce stores, which many of them could have done with a long time ago. But if these businesses are now able to embrace an omnichannel approach to retail, then they could well emerge from the pandemic with a much healthier outlook then they’ve ever had before. They’ll soon look back and see the pandemic as a catalyst for healthy and much-needed change.
Some companies have made significant and successful business pivots in order to stay on top. The Swedish music streaming goliath Spotify seemed perfectly positioned for the lockdown economy, as consumers looked for any distraction possible from the realities of being trapped in their homes. But because their model relies heavily on free users monetized by advertising revenue, they got a shock when many advertisers cut back their spending in the wake of COVID-19. Spotify’s response was to start creating its own original podcast content, and it has since snatched the rights to the Joe Rogan Experience and other celebrity podcasts.
We will adapt, and we will prosper
All this is to say that when faced with a crisis, we can either let it defeat us or we can adapt and prosper. Whether we get our success by spotting a new opportunity within people’s changing needs, or by making our existing venture more resourceful and innovative, there’s plenty to be optimistic about.
The businesses that have been most successful during the pandemic have been able to redirect their existing knowledge, skills, people and networks to meet the new needs that have emerged.
Here are some things you can do right away to help you to adapt in such a way:
Look at ways to become more agile and resourceful.
Agility is crucial in navigating uncertain times and capitalizing on opportunities. Now is the time to reexamine your processes and teams. You might discover a better way of doing things that you should have discovered a long time ago. That could be adopting some new technology or just identifying inefficiencies in your company.
Consider your options for a business pivot.
A business pivot could help you to add some value to your current offering that just makes sense in the pandemic economy. Think of offering your product on a subscription model, for example. This would be what Lean Startup author Eric Ries calls a ‘value capture pivot‘.
Retail subscriptions are thriving during the pandemic, as consumers acknowledge the model’s savings, convenience and flexibility.
Network and share knowledge.
Bring your company together and create an effective forum for sharing ideas and knowledge. This is particularly important if there’s some physical distance between you at the moment. Think wider, too, such as connecting with other businesses and establishing an alliance. You might be able to collaborate on a service that solves a unique problem for people in the current climate.
Perseverance is one of the most powerful entrepreneurial values, and it’s good to see that business owners are feeling more confident now than they did in April. Although I can’t deny that times are hard, and the road to recovery could be long, there are many reasons to be optimistic.
Ultimately, those who adapt to the ‘new normal’ first will achieve the most success. And the opportunity is there for the taking – for all of us.