We live in extraordinary times.
I'm sitting in my home office / music studio--working here for the first time in more than 2 years. My kids are all home trying not to drive each other crazy... one of them, the 1 year old, is staring at me as I write this.
Chances are, you're in the exact same boat as me... maybe also with your spouse (mine has an "essential" job, so she gets out)... even if not with kids, still certainly isolated from the rest of the world, and likely contemplating the magnitude of the situation, while trying to determine what you can control about the future of your business.
If you're like me, you're already looking for the silver lining, and, more importantly, the vehicle that's going to grow your business regardless of what's going on with the DOW.
First things first, before we start talking about business expansions trategy, let's take a breath, and figure out what this transition is going to look like.
What lessons did we learn from the 2008 recession?
We're facing two separate crisis' right now... health and economic.
As a business owner, founder, and/or partner, you are no doubt wrestling with how you're going to keep safe, keep your people safe, and still make money...
I know I am.
Thankfully, in many ways, Orange Pegs built for this... for both situations.
On one hand, we don't have a central office outside of the co-working space my Growth Architect Jesse and I share... My entire team is remote, and I have the ability to work from my home office.
On the other, we work with exciting venture-funded tech startups, which tend to be nimble and motivated to adapt their sales, marketing, and/or even their business model no matter what the world throws at them.
For the rest of you, I think it will come down to a choice about how far you're willing to go and what you're willing to change in order to advance your growth objectives.
I was working in the staffing industry when the housing market bubble burst. Our placement specialties were accounting and finance, and when the recession hit, it was HARD and all at once. Thinking about how to grow a business was always on my mind, and it wasn't long before I was pushing leaders to get into other, related fields that were thriving (such as IT).
Much of my optimism today lies in the fact that things DID come back. Back then, recessions of that magnitude were completely unknown to us... after coming back from it, however, I have a lot more optimism than I did back then.
I'm also optimistic that we as a species come out of this with a greater appreication of what really matters... and we'll start to see our existential challenges as opportunities for wealth creation and technological advancement... I think we're also about to learn how powerful we are when we stand together to advance our common goals.
What's the same today?
- Some industries will struggle; others will thrive - The demands, opportunities, and challenges of our society were changed and magnified in the blink of an eye as the Coronavirus shut down businesses, schools, and our way of life. Suddenly, anything involving healthcare and evolving businesses to adapt to remote conditions is going to be in extremely high demand. In 2008 both healthcare and IT/tech remained strong.
- We have social media -This means that information is moving incredibly fast. Granted, misinformation is moving quickly too, and social media has certainly left more than a few people feeling completely blind-sighted. It seems like every time I go to the grocery store, there's at least one or two people huffing and puffing about how they didn't see this coming.
Depending on which social channels you subscribe to you and which friends you're connected to, you may have seen what was going on in Washington early enough to stock up on essentials and start making other preparations... It likely even helped you and people near you come to terms with the situation as it was (is) unfolding.
Also not to be overlooked, it's going to help us feel connected during a time when we're very literally being forced to disconnect as much as possible.
- Basic human rights will be front and center - In 2008, people were losing their homes. Intervention took shape in many forms, but a lot specifically focused on ensuring we had places to sleep at night. Being a pandemic, we're obviously putting healthcare front and center (does this mean we can stop politicizing it as anything but a basic human right?).
I imagine this is also going to come in the form of mental healthcare. It's already being questioned in the media. And we're already facing record high numbers when it comes to suicide and overdose.
There is going to be a lot of pressure and energy and money poured into ensuring people are protected from the virus in addition to being sheltered, fed, quenched, warm, plugged in, and online... And, of course, mentally stable and physically healthy...
- Rebounding is a matter of when and how, not if - There is going to be a TON of activity in healthcare over the next year. Tech is going to skyrocket. To put it into perspective, despite all of the turmoil in the markets today, Zoom, a communication tool that is likely going to get a LOT of new customers in the upcoming days/weeks/months is doing quite well. Unsurprisingly, Clorox Co is also doing quite well.
So, there are buyers... You just have to figure out how to tweak your business to capitalize on the current confusion and severe shortages. For all of our tech startup disruptors trying to get off the ground or rapidly scale, now is your chance to address a very complex series of challenges... manufacturing companies... apparel companies... Look at how much money is being hurled at the situation...
What's different today?
A lot has changed since 2008... in ways that make us remarkably more prepared for this than we would have been the first time around... This is despite the slow testing to get our heads around what the situation actually looks like... and despite the lack of toilet paper in the stores... and certainly despite the extreme level of political divisiveness existing between us today...
We could spend hours and days discussing what's different, but there are two things that really stand out to me as being game-changing advantages that we simply did not have in 2008 and 2009.
- Remote work is a tweak away; and it could bring the economic spiraling to a halt all on its own - Many businesses (including my own) operate almost entirely remote to begin with or at the very least have the ability to do so with very minimal effort. Between a more robust and capable network for most of the country and so many business tools housed in the cloud, we have an enormous advantage over 2008.
- We have history lessons that aren't that old - We have been through a severe recession before... and it was recent enough for you to be able to make some pretty accurate hypothesis' about how to respond to our current conditions.
What adaptations do I make?
We have mostly talked about business adaptations so far... thinking in terms of how you pivot the business model in order to take advantage of the current landscape--by filling critical gaps that are preventing us from being able to solve our most important challenges.
Making your product viable is mission-critical. It always has been. Today's extraordinary circumstances don't change that... but they do change what "viable" actually means.
Are your usual revenue generators poised to stagnate, improve, or completely dry up? And is there any way you can pivot any of them to meet the demands of today?
This is a hugely important transitionary question to ask yourself.
We have some clients that are using this quiet time to experiment with new product roll-outs, others that are using it to eat up market-share with a newly engaged audience. Others, typically those who have historically struggled to embrace culture change of any kind, are going to shelter up and wait it out. For them, it's purely survival....
Obviously, you're going to need to figure out how to get everybody working productively from home in a very short amount of time. Hopefully you're able to hold onto your entire staff, but I am also realistic in the fact that operating in a remote setting presents a new set of problems and challenges while solving others.
And now that public schools have been cancelled just about everywhere, working parents are now dealing with having to keep their kids busy, teaching them their lessons, AND managing their workload.
So... how do you lean into this? How do you adapt to this new paradigm?
For me and many in my industry this is old news. When I started Orange Pegs, I literally worked out of my garage with my newborn baby strapped to my chest. I juggled bootstrapping a business with raising a family and bringing home very little (sometimes none) income. I worked during naps and after hours. I was there for my family, but also there for my business.
Here are some tips for adapting your culture
- Commit to video chats (tech tip: www.zoom.us is our favorite)
- Keep communication flowing (tech tip: Slack, Basecamp)
- Stay organized (tech tip: Basecamp, Monday.com, Asana)
- Set deadlines, not hours (tech tip: Basecamp, Monday.com, Asana)
- ... but do set standing meetings to retain some sense of normalcy
- Be tolerant of children and dogs and other background noise
- Pad your meetings with time to socialize
- Ask about how everybody is holding up--talk about the thing that's affecting us all
Weather the storm or seize the day?
Growing a business during this pandemic and recession means reinventing yourself and your business. Not everybody has the stomach or vision for it; not every business is built for it, or is even in a position to think about seizing the day during these extraordinary times...
If you are, our growth services can help: