The last few months have been a uniquely difficult time on a global scale. As countries begin to lift restrictions, many businesses are facing the uphill climb of finding a new normal.
When it comes to your brand, integrity has never mattered more than it does now. Customer trust and loyalty have never been more important. And whether it’s fair or not, not all businesses will survive this storm.
Those that do will be the ones that have fostered good relationships with their customers and have kept up good practices, even in the midst of crisis. Whether it’s a major corporation that kept orders flowing and lines of credit extended or a small business that — in spite of facing challenging times itself — continued to support its local community, the businesses that built up trust equity with their clientele will be the ones that make it through this intact.
Tips For Rising Above
Wherever your company is situated right now, there are three things that, in my opinion, should be your guiding light as you move forward into an uncertain new marketplace.
1. Take The Long View
As much as we’d all love to see this crisis go away overnight, the tenor of business has been changed dramatically. There will likely be at least one to three annual cycles of impact before we can dream of getting back to 2019 levels. Plan to be operating in this “new normal” for, at a minimum, more than one year.
That way of thinking will change the way you approach certain decisions, and it’s time to go all-in and learn how to operate in this environment. The moves you make now will set the table for the next seven to nine years of your business.
It’s easy to have knee-jerk reactions in times of crisis. A measured approach — one that considers not just your immediate needs, but how you plan to survive in this morphed business environment for, possibly, years — will be what gives your company strength.
2. Do The Right Thing
I say this from both a business leader perspective and a consumer perspective. Often, people are too proud to ask for help. But most of us really need it right now.
So when the possibility arises to help others, and you’ve already stabilized your own business, do it. It doesn’t matter whether that comes in the form of peer-to-peer business advice or financial support. If you have the chance to help out another human being, you should do it.
As a consumer, choose to support businesses that you think truly deserve it. Things are tighter for everyone, and there will be some cuts to budgets and hard decisions that need to be made. So when you do work with a business, make sure it’s a good one.
By “good,” I mean a company that supplies a quality product or service at a fair price, and one that provides value and has a vested interest in treating its customers well. Let doing the right thing be a driving force in how you make decisions.
3. Stay Ready
This is a personal choice, but I have always believed — and I’ve worked with very experienced leaders who have agreed — that from the greatest challenges and most dire situations, the biggest gains are possible.
The situation we all find ourselves in right now has so many unknowns and ups and downs. There are areas unimpacted now that may be affected later. Others that were hit hard early on could recover soon. Still, there is a plethora of opportunities.
Much like a game of blackjack, I think it’s best to play it safe until you have an opportunity to double down or you see that your chances of winning are increased. Be patient, but be ready to spring into action when you see that window open.
Do everything you can now to be in a position to capitalize on opportunities. Whether that opportunity is getting access to capital, selling your company, merging with another company or hiring talent, now is the time to take a smart, calculated risk.
Defining Your Brand During A Crisis
As people make decisions about how to carry themselves in the face of this major shift, I’m reminded of a strategic branding project I participated in once. It had a lot of political and market impact on how the company positioned itself and was a strategic long-term decision.
As part of that process, I had the pleasure of meeting Seth Godin. He doesn’t consult, but he was willing to give us a quick perspective as we started the process.
One of the key things I took away from that conversation was that a brand is never about the logo or name. It’s all the things that entity does after it decides on those basic elements.
You can call yourself Banana, but as long as Banana treats its customers well and provides a good service, people won’t care about the name. The experience is what matters.
How you behave as a company means more than any marketing collateral or ad campaign you can dream up. We’re about to see that play out on a local, regional, national and global stage.
My advice to entrepreneurs, founders and leaders is that right now, there is a tremendous amount of open space to fill. Things are shaken up, and there is a lot of market opportunity. But how you get to the next level in the life of your business is important.
The decisions you make now and the way you choose to behave will have ramifications long into the future. Now more than ever before, you must move strategically with purpose and integrity.
This article first appeared on forbes.com on June 23, 2020