This is a guest post from one of our current members Val Wright.
Consultant / Speaker / Author
Val is a recognized global leadership and innovation expert who is known as a growth accelerator by top executives at Fortune 1000 companies including Microsoft, Amazon, LinkedIn, The Financial Times and PopCap Games.
Visit her website: https://www.valwrightconsulting.com/ to learn more!
What should I believe? How do I protect my employees? Can I even make payroll this month? How can I use this crisis to better serve my customers and communities while taking care of my employees? How do I keep apprised of all the new information? These are many questions that are top of mind for business leaders in Los Angeles and around the world right now. I have updated this article multiple times, including late Sunday night as LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the closure of bars, clubs, movie theaters, gyms, and dine in restaurants.
The situation is changing by the hour. Depending on where you live, where your HQ is, where your board, investors, or other executives live, you may have varying degrees of apathy, panic, ambivalence, or anxiety over the COVID-19 virus.
I am featuring some local Los Angeles companies, alongside lessons from companies with creative solutions from other cities. There is no health guidance here, follow https://www.cdc.gov for that.
In my work with CEOs and leaders around the world, I have been helping them maintain and grow their businesses during these challenging times. These are some of the highlights that may prompt you to adjust how you and your business are responding.
Here’s a roundup of creative ways executives are handling the coronavirus outbreak:
Protect your employees and customers
Since late January, LA restaurant group Sichuan Impression has used touch-free infrared thermometers to check the temperature of its customers before they can dine at any of their three restaurants in Alhambra, Tustin, and West Los Angeles. While not an infallible way to prevent any spread of the virus, it is one way to provide some reassurance to your customers and employees. A Belfast branch of grocery store Iceland announced that the first hour of trading would be limited to customers aged 60 and older to provide protected environment for them to complete their grocery shopping.
Don’t pretend to be an expert when you are not.
There are a lot of talking heads about this disease sharing what to do and not do in this crisis. Jürgen Kloff Liverpool FC manager said this brilliantly “This is a very serious thing, a football manager’s opinion is important?… People with no knowledge like me, talking about this? People with knowledge need to be talking about this.” Don’t pretend to be an expert where you are not, quote reliable sources instead.
How can you turn your business on its head?
Pasadena French restaurant Entrenous has started offering curbside pick-up for customers. I tried it Friday evening and was able to text restaurant owner JC Febbrari my order and picked it up an hour later. Simply brilliant. Seattle has had over 50 restaurants close in the last two weeks, some permanently. How can you make it easy for your customers to buy from you so that you stay in business?
Close down and reinvent
Seattle’s fine dining restaurant Canlis took reinvention one step further when they closed their restaurant dining room and opened a drive-through coffee and bagel shop along with a family meal pick up service. With a high concentration of tech workers from giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google all being instructed to work from home, Seattle is seeing a drastic change in its retail and entertainment businesses.
What can you giveaway to help your customers?
Zoom, Microsoft, and Google are all giving away six-month access to their video conferencing service to help companies whose employees are working from home. What could you give away that could help your customers right now?
Use your brand as an opportunity to educate
On St. Patrick’s Day weekend, Guinness was able to perfectly use their heritage to capture the hearts of their customers in their brilliant video. “We have learned we are tough when we stick together…We will march again…be good to each other” was their message.
Take care of your employees
Your people need accurate information, regular updates, financial reassurance, and confidence if they need to stay at home sick, they won’t suffer financially. This is easier for corporate giants like Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple to do. Hopefully, the US government’s proposal of two weeks’ paid leave will provide some relief, but you want your employees to stay at home if they are experiencing symptoms to stop the spread to your employees and customers.
Support your extended ecosystem.
Now of course it is easier for affluent companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Mark Cuban to say they will continue to pay hourly contract workers, set up small business loans, and donate to coronavirus support funds when their businesses shut down, but how can you identify how you can best support your community while your business reacts and adapts?
Show public signs of leadership solidarity
Your employees are watching you right now. You need to keep yourself as safe and protected as possible, but there are times when you need to show leadership solidarity just like Gennaro Arma, Captain of the Diamond Princess Cruise ship, who was the last to disembark following quarantine since early February. Where do you need to show up?
What is your source?
You have a responsibility to fact check everything now more than ever. Maybe it’s because I have just finished writing a book and I had brilliant editors from Kogan Page fact-checking EVERYTHING I wrote or maybe it’s because it is hard to know what to believe right now. But I just added “SOURCE:” to a text thread with friends last night and have been looking at all sources of information. (No, holding your breath is not a valid way to test if you have the coronavirus. Snopes is a great fact-checking site if you are wondering if that latest article is fact or fiction.)
Create a crisis response team
If you don’t already have one, appoint someone in your executive team to lead your response team. Compile a group representing every function in your business and follow the CDC advice. This team can focus questions including but not limited to:
- How are you protecting or / making your employee’s lives easier?
- Which policies can you temporarily change to help your employees or customers?
- How can you make it easier for customers to buy from you?
- What channels could make customers’ life’s easier? Starbucks has been preparing restaurants for drive-through and collection only, on Sunday evening they announced they were removing their chairs from many of their stores to limit gatherings.
- What regions do you need to address differently?
- What innovative ideas do we have that we can rapidly accelerate to help us right now?
- Do you have the right two-way communication mechanisms in place with your employees?
- How can you keep your customers loyal to you? Like how Hilton is protecting its customer’s loyalty status during this period of reduced travel.
- Provide an optimistic, realistic, and worst-case scenario plan for how this might affect your business so you can keep your board and investors apprised of the possibilities and realities of how this could affect your business immediately and in the long term.
- Learn from others best practices, Denise Novosel, VP at Nike sent me this crowdsourced document that shares corporate communication plans, sample work from home policies, and other useful resources that you can learn from and adapt for your own use.
It is time to be factual, calm, and empathetic. If you focus on employees, customers, and the community in that order, you will grow your business during this crisis.
Dedicated to growing your business,
P.S. sign up here to get VAL-uable Insights in your inbox each Monday morning: http://valwrightconsulting.com/newsletter-sign-up/