How to Recover and Thrive Through a Major Business Crisis

Inspiration

At the beginning of a crisis, it’s easy for companies to enter survival mode. Some of our clients have lost over 30 percent of revenue overnight, can’t collect on accounts receivable, have dried up sales pipelines, or are waiting on delayed funding. If you or your company has experienced these or other hardships, we know it can be daunting to find a way out.

As an agency, we regularly get to interact with and support companies as they go through big changes. That means we get to learn from their challenges alongside our own—and we can share that knowledge to help others. Time and time again, we’ve seen organizations face life-or-death challenges that become a gift in disguise. Difficult times can be a necessary catalyst for growth and improvement.

This quote hangs above the coffee machine at Belief Agency:

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

― Albert Einstein

In the spirit of Einstein, here are a few lessons we’ve learned from clients on how to thrive in the midst of adversity.

Lesson 1: Align your team

The effects of the current global crisis are rippling through people’s personal and professional lives. This is a crucial time for you to ensure you’re communicating clearly, effectively, and regularly so your team stays aligned around a common goal. If you’re struggling with how to stay in contact with your coworkers without being in the office, here are some helpful tips.

Assemble a crisis task force

If your company is in a critical spot, forming a team that can work outside of a normal org chart will allow you to quickly make decisions in a rapidly changing environment. Ideally, this small group is led by the CEO so it can quickly make decisions and move information through your organization—this can be the difference between finding opportunity in crisis and missing available options. We’re currently coaching companies on forming a crisis response and how to gain positive momentum.

Communicate (often) via video

Maintaining internal communication is paramount while working remotely, and video chat is the best way to simulate in-person discussions. Just remember: Keeping employees informed and motivated is a challenge that can be overcome by effective communication. We’re in the process of helping companies set up regular internal communications rhythms to clearly and frequently engage with their employees.

Keep your vision consistent

In normal times, it can be easy to get distracted by everyday activities and lose sight of the bigger picture—and it’s even easier when you’re working remotely and can’t connect with your team as simply. We have a phrase around the office that “vision leaks every 90 days.” This is a reminder that we have to regularly get the group together and communicate the vision, values, and strategy of our culture—or else we begin to drift. It’s important to engage with your team much more regularly in these unprecedented times, especially as things continue to change.

Lesson 2: Adapt your business to the current reality

When times are steady, it can be risky to make changes. But when we face a crisis, the risk is in not changing. The key to overcoming an obstacle is the ability to adapt to meet the needs of your situation. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some ways we’ve seen incredible creativity and adaptation.

Update shopping procedures

Since many people are not comfortable going into stores right now, Dunn Lumber has reorganized their processes. They’ve established social distancing measures in-store, set up parking lot will-call so purchases can be delivered contact-free to customers’ cars, and promoted their $40 flat-rate local delivery. Because Dunn came up with creative solutions to keep both its customers and employees safe and comfortable, they’ve been able to continue operating their business amidst a crisis.

Host livestream events

Marketing and sales efforts are critical for your business to grow, and putting  those activities on pause—especially during a setback—can be detrimental. A livestream gives your sales team an opportunity to interact with customers, and it shows your audience you’re still making efforts to connect with them. To help our clients with streaming, we’ve partnered with a Seattle-based studio categorized as an essential business with zero-contact procedures that are CDC and OSHA compliant. We’re currently helping a medium-sized tech company move a big annual event to a livestream.

Utilize social to tell your story

We had just started working with Ebbets Field Flannels as foot traffic started to wane leading up to the stay-at-home order. The athletic apparel brand was quick to recognize the coming changes, and we worked with them to tell their story through a series of Instagram Stories. We set up a policy and process for creating content while maintaining social distancing. Now, they’re able to share their story with their customers, who are spending significant time at home on social media.

Make your products digital (if you can)

Our customers with digital products are, on average, in a much better place to weather this storm. Many of them are seeing their biggest months ever, as more people are spending more time online for both work and play. If you have the resources, invest in building a digital business or transferring your in-person services online. For example, a local yoga studio signed up for our Believe in Seattle consulting sessions and, within a week, launched online classes with a free 21-day challenge. This new format enables the studio to stay connected to their members, expand the number of people they are serving, and test the viability of a new business model.

Lesson 3: Build trust with your community

When you can find a way to help in the midst of chaos, you establish trust with those you’re helping. Doubling down on investing in your community when times are hard sets a foundation to rebuild from. Here are some ways our customers are supporting their communities in this time of need that you can do, too.

Join the fight

One of our customers, Mukilteo’s Kaas Tailored, was among the first in the nation to switch their production facility to creating PPE masks—and the technical specifications are available on their website so other companies can follow suit. They are heroes, and their quick decision to supply our medical community with much-needed protection will be remembered for years to come. If your business can pivot production to supply a need in your community, now is a great time to do so.

Offer free consulting

Swansons Nursery has an ongoing Twitter campaign called #HeySwansons where customers can ask questions and get help creating gardening mood boards—all via social media. This type of engagement allows Swansons to stay connected to their customers during their busiest season of the year, and it shows their audience that the nursery is still there to help. The campaign also supported Swansons’ transition to using a reservation system: Customers select a time to pick up their plants to ensure a limited number of people in the store at all times.

Share knowledge with your community

Our banker at First Citizens has been working around the clock to stay up-to-date on all the financial tools made available by the government. The trust they’ve earned from being vigilant in tough times will last much longer than the current crisis. Building and maintaining supportive relationships with vendors and partners is a huge advantage, and you do that by sharing knowledge. If you know of something that can help another company, sharing it with them will build rapport and forge a lasting bond.

At Belief Agency, we appreciate all that we’re learning from our network. As soon as we understood the magnitude of change that was about to take place, we launched our Believe in Seattle program, where we offer free consulting to Seattle companies and nonprofits to help them navigate these challenges. Helping our neighbors in need is both the right thing to do and how relationships of trust and goodwill are built.

When things get hard, it isn’t always easy to dive into action—and that’s OK. But if you’re feeling inspired to make a difference or offer support to your community, it’s a good time to adapt and see what you can accomplish—and we want to help you in any way we can. We’re still moving forward, and we’re willing to get creative to help you with whatever needs you may have—that’s our job, after all. Just give us a call, send us an email, or sign up for a free consultation, and we’ll see what we can do for you.

Be sure to check out our blogs on how to create content while your customers are stuck at home and how to adapt your in-person business to digital.

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay positive. We got this, Seattle.