When it comes to the greatest business innovations, even cursory research will bring up the fact that most of them have cropped up after some sort of crisis. Vacation rental company Airbnb was started during the global financial crisis of 2007-2009 when its founders were looking for a way to turn a spare room into extra income. Burger King flipped its first patty in 1954 when America was in a recession. Even consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble got its start during a crisis, starting out by supplying soap to members of the Union Army during the American Civil War in the 1800s.
Although it may at first seem counterintuitive, stories of organizations turning crisis into business opportunities are more common than one might think. Yet the question remains: how exactly did they do it?
Evaluating the impact of a crisis on your business
Often, a crisis is thought of as just another term for disruption. It’s also in disruption that so many businesses, unfortunately, lose their footing—confronted with a new challenge or new set of circumstances, they realize that what they’ve always been doing simply won’t work anymore and panic starts to set in.
One way to ensure that a business doesn’t fall prey to panic and impulse is to remember their North Star. What are the values, guiding principles, goals of the business? Keeping the vision on the North Star will make it easier to discern the necessary steps to take and move forward on the path to project execution. Another is looking at trends that can potentially impact your business in the long run. Which trends should you follow and which ones should you avoid? In marketing for example, deciding what trends to follow is crucial to making a company thrive in the future.
When a business does go into crisis, it’s important to get at the bottom of it. Different businesses are all affected in various ways. Since there is no one-size-fits-all solution for businesses in responding to a crisis, what’s more important than anything else is measuring how one crisis has impacted your business specifically.
Is there a matter of sudden reduction of manpower? Is there a shortage of technical skills involved? Is there a financial crisis? Identify what the problem really is, then cascade this information to the relevant members of your team.
The vital role of communication
Though all employees have a duty to steer the organization through difficult times, it is important to first build a crisis team. This group will serve as your frontliners, focusing on accessing vital information from the news and other sources, while also attending to the company’s needs while other employees resume their regular duties.
Given every organization’s individual needs, each crisis team’s profile will differ everywhere. Typically however, a crisis team should consider recruiting department heads, existing leadership such as a board of directors, and an HR representative. These people represent the leaders with the likeliest idea of what a businesses’ day-to-day is like while being able to switch to a bird’s-eye view of things.
The crisis team and the senior leadership team must now come together to map out plans for the company’s stakeholders, which consists mainly of the employees. After assessing the impact of the crisis on the business, it is important to ensure transparency within the organization for a more united effort to combat the current challenge. Thus, the vital role of communication.
Does everyone need to know about the crisis? How should it be communicated? It is important to communicate the facts, apologize if necessary, and let stakeholders know what the company is doing to address the situation. This way, everyone is on the same page. At the same time, it is also important to open up the floor for questions or concerns so the company can provide answers and relieve worries as a plan has already been put in place to move forward.
Shifting crisis into business opportunities
Nothing changes a market quite like a crisis and when a market changes, any good business will change right along with it. Focusing on what a customer needs is crucial because as a crisis tightens their wallet, it’s likely they’ll look to eliminate any unnecessary expenses.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants closed their dine-in services and instead focused on takeout or even outright offering paper goods and fresh ingredients for sale at a time when grocery stores were low in supply. Though the adjustments will differ with each industry and business, the point is that prioritizing what customers need will always point a business in the right direction.
As the landscape changes because of a crisis, a business must be agile when it comes to looking at opportunities to make a stronger comeback, or at least a temporary arrangement to keep it alive. What new service can be offered? Is there a different market to cater to? What’s a market need that the business can potentially invest in and grow? All these are essential when turning a crisis into business opportunities.
However, the key for a business to be agile and resilient during a crisis is strong leadership, especially when responding to the external circumstances affecting a market. This is why solutions providers such as Dale Carnegie Singapore offer training courses that can give insights on what it means for an organization to be agile, crisis-proof, and smooth in turning a crisis into opportunities.
Although a crisis will surely come with its own challenges, there is no reason it has to spell the end of a business entirely. On the contrary, a crisis could even be a signal for an abundance of opportunities to come. In the words of Dale Carnegie, “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”