Sometimes it’s good to get in a room and talk it out. Even if that room is a virtual one. And that is what 30-plus business leaders did for a recent roundtable discussion hosted by the Arizona Technology Council. Steve Zylstra, the council’s CEO and president, and I were fortunate enough to host a forum where the attendees each shared a challenge their business is facing because of the pandemic.
They also explained one of their recent successes. The responses were as varied as the industries represented, but five common themes surfaced. Five recommendations that every business leader can apply to their situations and, hopefully, weather this storm with less damage, and perhaps even thrive.
This pandemic and our response to it has severed our regular lines of communication. In the past, information filtered its way through an organization along well-worn tracks. Now, those tried and true pathways of communication are broken. Multiple participants emphasized how important it is to include more people in conversations and send out summaries after. It’s better someone hears the same message twice than not at all.
We all build business relationships on trust. This is nothing new, and stacks of business books exist on the topic. What has changed is that we can no longer use face-to-face contact to build the trust we need as a foundation. Now all we have is words and actions, and if our activities do not reinforce and create that trust, customers will go elsewhere.
In the blink of an eye, the world changed. What worked so well three months or 10 years ago no longer has an impact. How you do business and who you do business with has changed. To adapt and survive, your entire team needs to embrace different approaches, new processes and altered modes of interaction.
EMBRACE THE FACT: ‘We are all in this together’
Very few of us alive today have experienced a global crisis like the one we are living through today. It’s horrible. It’s destroying livelihoods and taking away the life of an unimaginable number of people. It’s also the first time for us that everyone around the globe is facing the same immediate challenges, the same devastating impact. And this reality is bringing us together. Many participants in the roundtable shared how in the past month they have built strong bonds with customers and partners that will survive decades.
Almost everyone who spoke brought it up. We must be proactive. They recommend that decision-makers plan and adapt to meet the short-term and long-term challenges heading toward them at high speed. If you only react as problems appear, you will never get ahead of this thing. When the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, and it will, people who do such things will write history and business books about what happened, what worked and what didn’t work. Those authors will have the benefit of hard data and hindsight. We don’t have either right now. What we do have is our experience, our creativity and each other. Those three tools have gotten our nation through tight spots in the past, and they will get us through this one.
Eric Miller is co-founder and principal at Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies (PADT) Inc.