3 Tips for Navigating Your Business in Uncharted Territory

Chris Ronzio

May 26, 2020

Even companies with the best-laid plans are struggling to meet the demands of the moment.

Whether your team has been operating remotely for years or you’re scrambling to shift gears, the new landscape brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has presented tons of new challenges and opportunities (as crises often do).

Surviving a Plane Crash

Do you remember the show Lost? When the passengers first accept that they are stranded, those who survived start emptying their pockets, placing what they have into a pile, and taking inventory.

Crash-landed in unexpected circumstances (literally), they need to figure out what each individual has to contribute to the whole. They also need to figure out how these items will help them survive as a group and what they need. 

Here at Trainual, we’ve taken a similar approach to address the current crisis. When COVID-19 first hit, we needed to be resourceful if our business was going to not just survive but thrive in uncertain times. 

Like many others, the needs of our business changed overnight. And we had to leverage our team member’s skills and interests – the ones tucked away during normal circumstances – to create innovative solutions to fulfill these new needs.

Suddenly, our People & Experience Coordinator is helping the marketing department take on social media. And our office manager is helping the CX team respond to customer support tickets. 

And while we are grateful for our team members stepping up, the biggest challenge has been determining what comes next, both short and long term. 

Remote Work Resources

When news first hit that businesses like Amazon were pivoting to remote, we knew it wouldn’t be long until we did the same. 

At Trainual, one of the first things we did to make the transition was to compile a comprehensive list of resources and tools for working from home. We also made public templates of the processes we already had in place that allowed us to operate seamlessly as a remote team.

We realized that we were not the only ones going through the crises. And we knew many businesses probably lacked the resources to help them navigate the transition. Compiling everything into one centralized website – RemoteWorkResources.com – we decided to share our collection of resources with anyone who needed it.

One of the biggest challenges of the current situation is the uncertainty about the future and what comes next in the short and long term. No one really knows how long this is going to last, where the market will ultimately be when the dust settles, and how deep the economic downturn will be. So, what are the essential processes and tools that your business will need to operate through a period of instability?

3 Tips For Pivoting Your Business 

As entrepreneurs ourselves, we’re no stranger to chaos or uncertainty. But even shifting all our attention to finding the right resources, I don’t think anyone could have prepared for such unprecedented times. 

Plans are currently on hold (or, in some cases, abandoned completely). And months in, businesses are still scrambling to adapt to new work environments and evolving customer needs. 

Here are 3 things we did that helped us make this transition seamlessly and kept our business on track: 

1. Invest in Your People

Your current customers and employees are your greatest assets. And especially in times of crisis, you need to equip your people with more, not less.

That might mean connecting them to additional resources and opportunities (there are tons of free ones out there) to help them both personally and professionally right now. It could mean offering delayed payment plans to customers feeling the economic weight of the moment and encouraging employees to take a company-wide mental health day. Or it might mean taking the Costco approach and financially investing more in your team.

If you nurture your employees along the way and support them both personally and professionally, they’re going to be that much more invested in the mission long term, and better equipped to figure out how to turn their belt into a tourniquet.

2. Retain Your Company’s Secret Sauce

I’ve talked at length about the importance of setting up a business that can succeed without its founder. But the same applies to all positions across your organization. 

Unfortunately, with an economic downturn, you might have to lay someone off or address a massive shift in your market (that’s just the reality of the situation). And you need to make sure that the business playbook stays intact, especially if a few key people with critical knowledge walk out the door.

In good and bad times, your business knowledge is your operating insurance.

If you have a team member who cannot succeed at their role remotely, then perhaps temporarily shift their responsibilities and task them with documenting your business instead. That way, no matter what happens, your knowledge is captured, and your company is ready for the worst.

3. Put Uncertainty into Perspective

The crisis is massive. I am not trying to downplay that with what I am about to say next because I recognize thousands of businesses will not survive the crisis in the US alone. But I also believe that even big things feel bigger when you’re in the middle of them (okay – call me an optimist).

Think of uncertainty like a speed bump. If you’re standing on the street and you see a car going over a speed bump, you notice that it barely affects the car and there’s no real danger that the car is going to veer off course or flip over. However when you’re inside the car and you hit that speed bump going at a decent speed, the impact jostles you and at the moment, the fear of crashing or flipping over feels very real.

The same is true for companies (and society) in times of crisis. Even those that are in no immediate danger of shutting their doors feel anxious about the economic downturn. Because currently, we’re all in the middle of it. And it’s difficult to gauge just how fast we are going and if we’re actually in danger of flipping.

But as Dr. Jack Shephard reminded his fellow passengers on the island in Lost, “we can choose to live together, or we can die alone.”

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