As businesses adjust to the new normal that awaits them after Covid-19 leaves the economy in tatters, many will find that they can't return to their old ways of doing things.
In some cases, that will be a good thing.
Often, those old ways weren't working. Many companies have problems within their corporate culture that stifle productivity, innovation, and teamwork. Management hires whoever appears to be the best option from the resumes on their desk, rather than actively seeking top talent. They communicate poorly - and sometimes not at all. Companies have silos that create a lot of rework and foster competition instead of cooperation.
So, this is the perfect time to jettison those old ways and embrace some new ones.
That won't happen overnight, of course, but the path to getting there must begin now. Here are a few things business leaders should keep in mind as they work to bring their companies out of the economic downturn and into what we all hope will be a brighter new normal:
- Get out among your employees. I have seen instances during a downturn where leadership goes into hiding, unable to summon the fortitude to stand with their people and face what's ahead. But as businesses struggle to recover from our current crisis, owners and CEOs need to open that office door, go out and talk to their people. Think of this as "management by wandering around." Engage your team and discuss how everyone can pull together to get through this. Value your people and make sure they know you value them.
- Talent just became available; grab it. The unemployment rate has soared in recent weeks, and no one would argue that this is a good thing. But it does mean there is an opportunity for businesses that want to build a strong team. During just about any downturn, the people who lose their jobs include top-notch performers. Be on the lookout for that talent and snap them up if you can. If you can't hire right away, make a note to yourself who you want to go after when the time is right. At Mustang Engineering, the company I helped found in the 1980s, one of our first hires was a wonderful piping designer who came to our attention as we were moving office furniture from the engineering firm he had worked for, which was closing during an oil-industry bust.
- As the economy rebounds, stay lean and hungry. In too many cases, when good times return, so do bad habits. Businesses become less diligent about eliminating waste. They put up with poor-performing employees instead of parting ways. You run lean in the lean times because you have no choice, but you also should run lean in the good times, when profits soar and all is right with the world. That way, your company will be in much better shape the next time the economy goes into a tailspin, which it will. Staying lean in the good times is a game changer.
One more mistake businesses make in good times is that when they get really busy, they lose some of their motivation to sell. Why keep bringing in more work when the production team's schedule is already backed up? But I always say you should sell while the shop is full. That way when your sales people are in a client's office, they don't come off as desperately begging for work. Instead, they are talking about all the great things you're doing at your company. That makes a big difference in how you are perceived - and potential clients are more likely to want to be a part of those great things.