For many businesses, COVID-19 has been more than just an unprecedented public health crisis: it has been an unmitigated financial nightmare. For example, prior to the pandemic, the unemployment rate in the U.S. had fallen to its lowest levels in the post-World War Two era.
But by April 2020, the proportion of Americans without jobs skyrocketed to an all-time high of 14.7 percent. Predictably, this carnage was also inflicted on the B2B landscape, with thousands of businesses of all sizes — from small firms to large enterprises — pulling back, pausing, or outright eliminating spending, investment, hiring, and expansion plans.
However, despite the fact that the speed and severity of the crisis has been staggering, the fact remains that some businesses are not just surviving during these tumultuous events, but they are thriving. And according to construction risk mitigation industry leader Brian Mingham, this success has nothing to do with good luck — since right now, there frankly isn’t much good luck to go around.
“When we look at elite athletes, world-class musicians, extraordinary scientists, and other remarkable individuals who rise to the top of their profession and change the world, we do not come to the conclusion that each of them had excellence handed to them on a silver platter; on the contrary, what we typically see are stories of remarkable perseverance, drive, and single-mindedness,” commented Brian Mingham, the Founder and CEO of CFSI Loan Management, a leading nationwide construction risk mitigation firm.
“In a similar sense, when we look at businesses that are growing and thriving during COVID-19, we identify a set of common core principles and characteristics that set them apart from the pack.”
And so, just what are these core principles and characteristics? In Brian Mingham’s view, it boils down to four integrated elements: adaptability, operational efficiency, supporting employees, and customer experience.
In the new world of work, it is not the biggest organizations that will dominate their marketplace — it is the most adaptable. This not only refers to what businesses do but increasingly how and where they do it.
“In the last few months, tens of millions of people who typically worked in a corporate office have migrated to a home office,” stated Brian Mingham, whose firm enables lenders to reduce construction loan risks for residential, commercial, and multi-family properties.
“And even though some of these workers are starting to make their way back to the corporate environment, many will continue working primarily or exclusively on a remote basis for months, if not years to come. Businesses that have the technological infrastructure and policies to enable this workforce reconfiguration will lead the way, while those that remain rigid and inflexible will fall behind, and eventually face the risk of falling into the dustbin of history.”
For many people, the term operation efficiency is synonymous with cost-cutting — and, indeed, there is some validity in this view. However, increasing efficiency is not necessarily about scaling back expenses. In essence, it is about boosting productivity by making every minute of work count.
“Businesses that focus obsessively on being more efficient run the risk of undermining their own ability to compete and grow,” claims Brian Mingham. “What ultimately matters is whether an expense or investment is justified and maximized, and that involves focusing on productivity — not just cost savings. The goal is close gaps and do more with less.”
Virtually all businesses claim that “our people are our most valuable asset.” However, not all businesses fulfill this commitment in practice, including some that seriously dropped the ball during the COVID-19 crisis and were exposed as being hostile towards their anxious and exhausted employees instead of helpful. Now more than ever, businesses need to rely on their workforce to lean forward and go the extra mile — and that only happens when employees feel supported both practically and emotionally.
“This is a scary time for many businesses, and the advice here isn’t for supervisors, managers, and executives to tell their people some kind of fairy tale about how everything is going to be wonderful in the future,” states Brian Mingham.
“Ideally things will get better, but between now and then there are going to be some pretty frightening and painful bumps in the road. What leaders have to do is be honest and authentic with their employees and do what they can to provide meaningful and practical support. For example, providing employees with online resources to help them improve their financial health and make smarter decisions around spending and saving could be extremely helpful and welcome right now.”
Right now, consumers — both in the B2C and B2B space — are re-evaluating the companies that they choose to do business with. Companies that are being kicked to the curb are those that only commit to meeting the bare minimum when it comes to customer satisfaction. Conversely, companies that are being embraced and championed are those that actively focus on enhancing customer experience across all touchpoints before, during, and after the sale.
Research has shown that the majority of customers will pay more to buy from companies who they know, like, trust and recommend to their professional and personal network. Alternatively, companies that disappoint or offend customers by taking them for granted are in for a world of hurt. The financial impact might not be felt immediately — some businesses have lots of customers at the moment — but eventually and inevitably, it will catch up to them, and by that time it may be impossible to stem the bleeding and recover.
The Bottom Line
Nobody has a crystal ball, tea leaves, or a magic mirror that reveals what the future will look like. But despite this extreme uncertainty, this much is clear: businesses that follow Brian Mingham’s advice and focus on adaptability, operational efficiency, supporting employees, and customer experience will put themselves in a position to not just lead the way forward, but to shape and build the future.
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