Although history teaches us that recessions may be predictable and inevitable, the world has witnessed a velocity of economic destruction in the past weeks, the likes of which we have never seen. The way in which we choose to respond will be a test of our character and a testament to the will of every business and brand to persevere and survive. Here, we offer a perspective on how we can move forward, gaining and giving confidence in these uncertain times.
Perhaps the biggest lesson we have learned from this pandemic is the importance of putting people first. Winston Churchill famously said, “Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.” More than ever, businesses need to provide the reassurance and support that their employees, clients, and customers require, as well as the confidence that will give them the courage to make meaningful decisions to move forward. Leading purposefully with the head and the heart should be our going approach, and those businesses and brands that survive and thrive will do so by adapting their message to educate, inspire, and be heard.
To meet the challenges ahead, our own responses will need to be as quick as the economic devastation which the crisis has wrought. Businesses will need to adapt their products, services, and messages to meet the speed of change that has quickly unfolded, as demonstrated by the global life-sciences company Abbott, who developed a test for COVID-19 in record time. This astonishing achievement is true to the brand’s mission to bring life-saving technologies to people everywhere, not only by delivering on a critical need in the midst of the pandemic but also by giving hope to people around the world.
Brands will need to recognize the importance of their customers, business partners, suppliers, and the supportive ecosystem that enables a business to be conducted. Winners will refocus traditional views of competition into opportunities for collaboration and co-creation. We will come to see our supply chains as lifelines and will begin to recognize our interdependence with those around us, looking for ways to work in more collaborative ways and at speeds we never thought possible.
If necessity is the mother of invention, our new economic conditions may provide the best and most immediate encouragement for businesses and brands to explore new markets, categories, and segments. This is a time to explore adjacent categories or even launch new products and services, gain new efficiencies, and develop new competencies. As reported in the New York Times, the City of Las Vegas and Clark County rapidly innovated and mobilized an approach to bring the principles of social distancing to the area’s homeless population. Working with a team of community partners, the city was able to bring about change to achieve its public health goals in a matter of days.
Those businesses and brands that survive will do so by adapting themselves in ways that we might not have imagined; and in doing so, they will become more innovative and relevant, setting a strategic course that will help to sustain us and get us back to work. Great companies, like great leaders, are able to find opportunities even in the depths of market downturns and help lay the groundwork for recovery and rebirth.
Cover image source: Štefan Štefančík