Agility, empathy and transparent communication have helped businesses offset the challenges thrown at them by the pandemic.
It’s been a year since the Covid pandemic brought the world to a stop and changed us in more ways than we can imagine.
At the workplace, the pandemic forced some changes overnight. As countries went into lockdown one after another, we saw the rapid adoption of remote working, flexible work hours and a dramatic reduction in work-related travel. Many business owners realized they had to adapt or die and they swiftly pivoted their businesses to make the best of a rapidly-changing situation. Gin distilleries in the UK and Australia (among other countries), for instance, switched to making hand sanitizer, and airline cabin crew in Sweden retrained to work as hospital and nursing home assistants. Dine-in restaurants across the world changed how they operated, moving from indoor to outdoor seating wherever possible and servicing an increasing number of takeaway orders.
As several countries roll out their Covid vaccination plans in 2021, igniting hope that we will soon see the end of the pandemic, we asked a few business owners and leaders about their learnings over the past year. Here’s what they had to say:
‘Agility is a key ingredient for success’
Michelle Lobo, Co-owner, Otis, Brooklyn
Agility is king (queen). This was obvious and applicable pre-Covid too, but it was massively reinforced in 2020. Building the structure of an organization so that it is as flexible as possible helps it withstand unexpected hurdles that come flying its way. The ability to pivot dramatically and quickly while also knowing how to stay in your lane was a key ingredient for success last year.
Being forced to halt operations of our restaurant overnight and then having to repeatedly reinvent operations every few weeks shone a light on all the holes in our operating procedures and processes. My takeaway from this is that even in the best of times, it is important for an organization to take a break – maybe a week or so each year – to do a thorough review: audit, refocus and reorganize. It is difficult to do all that when you are busy ploughing ahead with regular business, but is all the more important the busier you get.
‘Consistent and transparent communication is very important’
Damon Lembi, CEO , Learnit
One lesson I learned during the pandemic is the importance of consistent and transparent communication. As a leader it is my responsibility to be candid with our team around the circumstances surrounding us, and also to provide hope. The leader needs to be out in front, communicating with employees on a regular basis and not in hiding or unavailable. Team members want to know what is going on. They also want a leader who can remain strong and positive and who can give them confidence that the company will not only make it through this once-in-a-lifetime situation but also emerge stronger from it.
Empathy helped our remote team get closer
Peter Gustafsson, Investor, Blur management
Empathy pays dividends. “You need to understand the perspective of the other person,” is something we have heard all our lives. But in the traditional workplace, most of us never bothered to go beyond asking each other casual questions [about each other’s lives outside work]. In 2020, however, we all were in the same boat and could relate to each other at a personal level (the boss, for instance, had a messy home office with children). We couldn’t rely on jargon anymore but had to lean into the Zoom call and ask each other: “How are you REALLY doing”. Despite being further apart than we were before, we came closer as individuals.
‘Be prepared… Be positive!’
Thorgeir Einarsson, CEO and Founder, Elevera Advisers
This past year, I learned:
- To always expect the unexpected.
- To do a rolling scenario planning (at least every quarter) instead of a fixed plan.
- To keep calm and see the opportunities of a downturn (e.g. best time to invest in your business and yourself).
- To maintain and build even stronger relationships with people who you can help (and who will eventually help you in return).
- To know that bad things will always happen, you just need to get through it and keep smiling as you grind on!
‘We focused on diversification and digital transformation’
Rohit Kumar Pandey, CEO, Reward360
In 2020, we diversified our revenue sources by getting into new but related business segments with existing and new clients. We also focused on reusing and tweaking our existing technology solutions and services to reduce operational cost and increase profitability.