April 20, 2020
Re-Opening the Economy: 5 Steps to Prepare Ourselves for What Lies Ahead
We’ve been dealing with COVID-19 for some time now. In fact, we have been on quarantine long enough for some of us to have just about normalized it. Sadly though, any sense of routine is likely going to be shaken up again.
Leaders are looking ahead toward a post-remote world. Conversations are happening in real-time as local, federal, and global governing bodies assess how and when social distance restrictions should be lifted in order to re-open the economy. While much of this is still in question and being hotly debated, we as businesses and people are left waiting and wondering what this will mean for our immediate futures.
Let’s start with what we do know:
We know that there is a strong desire for states and economies to start opening up and many are already building plans and actively working towards a return to public life.
We also know that COVID-19 has its own timeline and many of the determining factors are widely out of our control.
So how do you reconcile these truths and find clarity? By focusing on what we know for sure: The economy will eventually re-open. We don’t know when, but this outcome is inevitable. We will undoubtedly resume our lives in the world (even if they don’t look exactly the same as they did before).
The change could be immediate—weeks, even days away. Others suggest that a transition could be rolled out gradually and major adjustments won’t be needed for months to come. I personally suspect that when the decisions are made things will unfold head-spiningly fast, much like in March when we all found ourselves in quarantine.
Regardless of how it plays out, sitting and waiting for the green light isn’t recommended. In fact, it’s hardly an option. The realities dictated by all of our businesses—sunken costs, payrolls, and revenue forecasts—simply won’t allow for that to take place. As marketers, sales people, customer success practitioners, executives, or any form of revenue-drivers, we all have a responsibility to change alongside the changes happening around us.
We have to prepare for what our new “normal” will look like and begin adapting right now. Not tomorrow, not in some distant future, not as a “maybe.”
We have to prepare for change and we have to start laying that groundwork immediately.
What we need to figure out.
- “Do I have a plan in place if we return to work tomorrow?“
- “Do I have a sense of what a post-WFH state will look like?“
- “How can I begin to lay the groundwork for this impending change?“
There is a natural hope that when the economy re-opens and we return to work, everything will return to normal. But what we are experiencing is unprecedented and our world isn’t rubber band elastic; things won’t simply snap back into place.
5 Steps to Prepare Ourselves for What Lies Ahead
Step 1: Start the discussion internally.
If you haven’t already, start a dialogue with your internal teams. Discuss what returning to work will mean for your day-to-day projects, how it might impact your priorities, which of your COVID-adjusted plans you anticipate will change, and which will stay intact. Odds are that most of your team hasn’t weighed all of this out. Most of us have been caught very much in a reactive mode. This will be your opportunity to shift things back into a proactive state. This step is largely preparatory. The conversations started here will provide the insight you’ll need later in the process.
Step 2: Hear what your customers think.
Before you make any adjustments, you should also understand how this change might impact your customers. Find out what their biggest concerns are and how they are planning to adjust. A good business looks to solve the problems of their customers, not just their own. Don’t just tap into your tried and true advocates. Get a broad swath of company sizes, industries, and job roles so you can paint a complete picture of their thoughts and better anticipate their expectations.
Step 3: Take inventory of your current COVID-19 adjustments.
What has worked? What hasn’t? What is still resonating most with your customers? Don’t work on instinct and feedback alone. Rely on the data. Compare the ROI of your current activities against benchmarks of pre-pandemic activities to help determine what your new mix of marketing channels and tactics should look like.
Step 4: Begin laying the foundations of a plan.
Build new plans this time aimed at short sprints (two weeks at a time) while still tracking towards your long-term goals. Be sure to meticulously document your key milestones, stakeholders, and dependencies. At the end of the two-week sprint, debrief, reset priorities with your team and leadership. Rinse and repeat. Begin to diversify your approach so that if any singular tactic becomes unavailable your pipeline won’t be completely at risk. Bake in backup programs for all major plans so you can quickly pivot strategies in the case of an emergency.
Step 5: Make your investments while you still can.
I’m not condoning buying things for the sake of buying them. However, most of us have a shortlist of tech investments that we are considering or plan on rolling out over the next quarter or so. If the economy struggles like many suggest, it is very likely that finance will start to freeze if not roll back team budgets even more. Take advantage of the current limbo to really assess your pending purchases. Prioritize investments that will clearly impact revenue, retention, or productivity. Shelf everything else.
As with any global crisis, change is always pending and certainty is a luxury that we may not see for a while. But uncertain isn’t the same as unforeseeable. Take the time to plan, lay the groundwork for the next big phase in this pandemic, and create stability for your future revenue. Those who are prepared, or at least more prepared than their competitors, will reap the benefits.
Good luck and good health.