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Four positive steps to take during a crisis

03.18.20 Jane Hillstrom

We live in uncertain times. During a crisis, our emotions are on edge, our brains aren’t fully functioning, and our lives move so rapidly we can’t always follow a written marketing plan or crisis plan. Most people incorrectly assume you can maintain your normal day-to-day responsibilities during a crisis. You cannot.

A crisis is a serious matter that requires a clear mind, proper diagnosis of how it will affect the economic wellbeing of your business, and appropriate steps to address the issues at hand.

Let’s pause to assess what is happening now:
• Significant concerns about COVID-19 and its threat to you, your loved ones and your company’s future
• Interruptions to normal life, daily routines and business transactions with customers
• Challenges to manufacturing, providing services and delivering products
• Questions from employees regarding their role and the future

Action overcomes anxiety
Where do you start? A crisis feels overwhelming with so many issues coming at you simultaneously. Take a deep breath and break it down into pieces. Give your team action steps to lessen anxiety. Try assigning each task below to someone in your company.

1. Stay calm and confident. Make sure everyone knows the safety and wellbeing of your team and their families is of the utmost importance. Put action behind your words by having employees work remotely or by providing extra soap and hand sanitizer for those in the workplace. People are searching for leaders to emerge in a crisis. Ask your CEO to video conference daily or weekly with employees. A calm, confident tone keeps everyone connected and demonstrates to others your leadership readiness.

2. Over-communicate. In times of crisis, it is more difficult for employees, customers and vendors to hear what you are trying to say. Call instead of email. Create time for questions. Send emails that summarize or clarify. Keep everyone as informed as possible. Knowledge is power. Send daily updates on the status of your business to your team, and weekly updates to your vendors and your customers.

3. Be empathetic in your messaging. It’s a good time to audit current messaging. It’s not the time to be clever or do a hard sell in your marketing. Talk about how your company is helping to mitigate the spread of the virus. Express gratitude to your employees who are adjusting to a new normal. Give thanks to farmers, truckers, delivery people, grocery store employees, healthcare workers, police officers, military personnel and firefighters who can’t self-isolate.

4. Think forward. Anticipate the business environment in the second and third quarters of the year. Look into the future and develop a few scenarios. Where are market prices? Where will the supply chain be? What other disruptions and opportunities are possible? Then, ask how your business will prepare for each scenario. What can you do now to prepare to maximize growth? Bring in outside thinkers. People who specialize in ideation. Now is the time to bring new thinking to the business.

Every crisis has a cycle. There’s a warning sign, and the crisis hits, then the stress of managing through it and finally, the evaluation and rebuilding during recovery.
We are living through unprecedented times. The fear of the unknown can be debilitating, especially the fear that we are not in control of our lives. The reality is that we don’t control anything about this except how we choose to react and the choices we make. Breaking a crisis into pieces won’t prevent disruption to your business, but it should make your recovery faster.

We’re all in this together. We’re here if you need to talk.

Jane Hillstrom
Jane Hillstrom
Vice President