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Helder Machado

President/CEO of Machado Consulting

In COVID-19's Wake: Opportunity for Change

Across the United States, people are itching to get back to work. Since lockdowns went into effect mid-March, some 33.5 million jobless claims have been filed. In the first quarter of 2020, gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 4.8%, and that’s given nearly two months of relatively normal circumstances in January and February. On top of that, 7.5 million small businesses in the US are at risk of closing permanently.  

In this grim reality, it can be hard to find any positives, but there are some. For instance, as far as layoffs and unemployment go, 97% of workers expect their current condition to be temporary, meaning that when the economy reopens, they will quickly get back to work.  

 

Another silver lining can be found by looking back at history. The stock market, for all its wild swings up and down, has always been on an upward trend. We’re in one of those wild swings right now. As any investing firm will tell you, the best time to buy is when markets are down and prices are cheap. In other words, you have a limited window to capitalize and eek out stronger long-term returns. 

Business Tycoon Warren Buffet once famously said, “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” It’s fair to say that people are very fearful right now, and instinct tells us that now must be the worst possible time to seek new opportunities. However, acting boldly when others are timid is a time-honored way of coming out on top.  

While it may be hard—maybe even close to impossible—to consider doing anything more than “getting by” right now, you should do your best to try. Here are some recommendations on where to start. 

Have a Plan 

First, it may be comforting to know that in making dramatic changes, you won’t be alone. Fields like telehealth, remote learning, and ecommerce are making gigantic leaps forward, growing and adapting years ahead of schedule, and most of these changes are going to be for good. 

The iron is hot, and it’s time to strike. So, where can your business begin its process? 

Let’s begin with some tips from Forbes Technology Council. They advocate for doing a few things, first and foremost is making a plan and putting it in writing. Policies for extraordinary circumstances seem pointless until they’re needed. Companies without work-from-home policies struggled immensely when lockdowns began. In hindsight, the need for them seems obvious, but you know what they say about hindsight. 

When it comes to business continuity, you don’t want to have a patchwork system. Get those policies written now—especially ones for remote work—so that the company has a clear direction during an emergency.  

When you sit down to write your plan, don’t forget critical considerations like cash flow, technology tools and access, employee sustainability, and other factors related to your industry. Ask question of your team if you need help. Now that you’ve been through one extraordinary event together, you can plan for the next. 

Look for opportunities for change with a mind on both the inner workings of your organization as well as external factors. You and your team have an extensive set of skills; where else could they be utilized? If the revenue from one market has suddenly and unexpectedly dried up, what new markets can your organization rapidly switch to? Don't be afraid—be hungry. 

Act Now, Change Forever 

Despite the rise of new tech, structural changes slow in the modern business world are slow—but not right now. The beeswax is hot, says Rasmus Hougaard, and now it is soft and easily shaped. Make changes quickly before it cools again and becomes hard and brittle. 

Indeed, this sentiment appears to be shared. The virus is “an accelerator for digital change,” says Michael Hendrix, design director at Ideo. “The surprise has been to see the resistance to this digital change suddenly evaporate,” he continues. “What organizations resisted for a decade is now core to survival and innovation.” 

In advising corporate leaders, Hougaard has said to take the leap before this opportunity disappears. “If you have things you have long wanted to change in your business, your teams or your leadership,” he says, “now is the time to leap across the chasm.” 

So, what are you waiting for? Make the leap. While you’re hesitating, the window for important and desirable structural changes is passing you by. Start asking questions and having conversations with others to get their points of view. This will help you address issues that may have plagued your business for a long time without you evening noticing. 

The Way Forward is Remote Work 

Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare, calls what the world is seeing right now “the largest work from home experiment ever conducted in human history.” He’s right about that. Never before has there been a shift this dramatic and widespread in the way people collaborate and do business.  

Experts seem confident that this trend will not reverse after we’re past COVID-19. While some are predicting the death of the open space work environment, others picture less of a black and white corporate landscape ahead—certainly one that is more gray than ever. The blend of remote work and traditional office work is surely to be a much more diverse one moving forward. 

View your technology with a sense of urgency. Make sure it’s included in any and all contingency plans, and make sure you have IT partners (internal or external) who can help you adapt rapidly. Furthermore, it is probably time to ditch long-standing notions of what meetings, interviews, and other connections look like. Becoming comfortable with and accepting of internet-based, video- and audio-enabled communications will help you immensely in a digital-first landscape. 

Test on the Fly 

Famously, the early motto of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was, “Move fast and break things.” That bold, innovate sentiment is something we can all appreciate. 

The pandemic has been encouraging individuals and organizations to do their own rapid innovating, says Sarah Stein of Stanford’s d.school. Companies are having to simultaneously focus on survival in the current moment and work towards the future, she says. This has led to business “ambidexterity,” a circumstance in which firms are open to more potential solutions than ever before. 

In an environment where everything is changing, ideas are less likely to get shot down. Instead, the consensus attitude to new ideas is, “Sure, let’s try it.” In the search for the “new normal,” companies have to try everything to see what sticks. 

Making IT Work 

The world is changing at a dizzying pace, and if you’re not staying ahead of the curve, you’re going to get left behind. While times are tough, fixing old problems doesn’t have to be—especially when it comes to technology.  

Remote work won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. If you need help with work-from-home IT solutions, asking for help from friendly experts like the ones at Machado Consulting is a smart move. Reach out to us at (508) 453-4700 or online here.

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