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Desperate times call for strategic measures

March 17, 2020 by Julie Mitchell

As the Covid-19 virus spreads and a global recession looms, business owners find ourselves in a precarious position trying to balance responsibility to our customers, our employees, and our shareholders.

In a LinkedIn article, my friend and fellow EO facilitator, Andy Clayton, broke down strategies for businesses in various categories based on their exposure to risk: companies that are beneficiaries, companies that are distracted, and companies that are hurt by all of this. I wanted to add my experience based on the three firms I currently operate:

Parcel is the first company I founded in 2006, and would be what Andy describes as in the “distracted” camp. Covid-19 isn’t a hindrance to our ability to serve our clients. Our team is small, and through technology and good management, has had the capacity to function in a self-managed function virtually for years.

Our client-mix is also relatively recession-resistant, although that remains to be seen. But whether we’re able to continue to secure new business in a receding economy is an unknown. Fortunately, we developed a new strategic pricing model late last year, which now should be attractive to clients looking to maintain consistency in their brand messaging, yet at a more affordable price.

Iterate, our newest venture, is in the “hurt” category, primarily due to the timing of our launch, which was supposed to be next week.  We decided to develop this consultancy to help other owners build self-managed businesses through branded programs that inspire greater team alignment. Sadly, our core offering includes our workshop series, which are no longer feasible now that companies are having to distance employees through work from home strategies. So we’ve cut back our advertising spend and will instead invest in refining and perfecting our content offering, so we’re in a better position to launch when the time is right.

Torq, the indoor cycling studio I started four years ago, is also in the “hurt” category. Ridership has been down since the crisis began in late February, and we had to make the heartbreaking decision to close.

These decisions are easier for some brands than others. At Parcel, our brand subtext is “inspired every day.” So long ago, we set up systems to accommodate flexible work schedules so our team could work where they felt best – either in our studio or at home or during travels. So when it came time to shut down the studio and distance ourselves, we could do that seamlessly. We stay connected through the typical virtual collaboration tools: Trello, Google Hangouts, and Zoom – and make a point to structure daily check-ins with each other, even if it’s just to share the latest news or Spotify playlist.

But Torq’s brand subtext centers around finding connection: with your self and your community. So while we recognize that social distancing is a critical strategy for containing the spread of Covid-19, we also believe that it is essential for people to maintain our physical and mental health in responsible ways. We have always had rigorous cleaning standards, and our class sizes are limited to the number of bikes we have. So we tried to create that forum. But as the situation progressed, our community came first close – so we’re finding new ways to keep people connected in creatively virtual ways – including sharing work-out ideas on social.

A global pandemic combined with a recession is not something we business owners have to face every day.  The decisions we’ve all had to make are complicated – and often frustratingly subjective – but this is not a time to wait and see. No one looks back at these situations and thinks that they wish they had delayed in making a decision.

Having clarity on what our brand stands helps us make more strategic decisions more quickly to protect our communities and our businesses. It gives your team a sense of alignment and confidence to prepare short-term and long term plans. Then together, you can use the time to address all those things you can never get to when it’s “business as usual.”

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