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Episode 36 - Pivot Don't Panic

How Businesses Can Adjust in the face of the Coronavirus


You can’t turn on TV or the radio without having the media create a level of panic about the Coronavirus. The telecommunications, cloud and contact center industry’s largest trade shows were cancelled with moments to spare. And you all know the wild ride we are having on Wall Street. However, because we live in a technology-driven world, perhaps it is time to pivot, not panic and let technology step in while the virus behaves like the flu, has its season, and then goes underground as the weather warms up. Here are some thoughts for our business community.

If you’ve lived long enough, you’ll recognize the many times in your life where circumstances dictated that you make a change. Perhaps you had to change jobs, you got a divorce, or had to make adjustments to compensate for a health issue. People react to change in one of two ways. They either view them as an opportunity to “pivot”, adjust and move in a new direction. Or they view change as a time for panic and stare the change in the face like a deer in the headlights without moving forward or moving on.

When the airplanes hit the Twin Towers on 9/11, the business community took a hard hit nationwide. People were afraid to do business as usual; they stopped traveling, and the deer in the headlights effect took over. In 2001, I ran a conference calling company and from that Tuesday through the end of the week, we were dazed, our phones were silent, and it seemed that our customers were at a loss for what to do next.

But then the following week rolled around, and panic gave way to pivoting. Our customers called us in droves, asked us to set up conference calling accounts for their employees and adjusted to having people work remotely, stay off the road and do virtual sales calls, and have meetings over the web and phone. This pivot allowed business to continue while the world sorted out the risk of a potential terrorist attack.

Our revenue skyrocketed and we expected a drop off when the airplanes started flying again, but that wasn’t the case. Not only did business pivot, but they recognized that virtual meetings saved money, were incredibly efficient and allowed people to collaborate in new ways.

Today, you can’t turn on TV or the radio without having the media create a level of panic about the Coronavirus. In Atlanta, we closed all of Fulton County schools for 2 days when one person was infected in one school. Atlanta is the home of Delta airlines who announced that they expected a 25% drop in air travel. The telecommunications, cloud and contact center industry’s largest trade shows were just cancelled with moments to spare. And you all know the wild ride we are having on Wall Street.

However, because we live in a technology-driven world, perhaps it is time to pivot, not panic and let technology step in while the virus behaves like the flu, has its season, and then goes underground as the weather warms up. Here are some thoughts for our business community.

Rediscover the power of virtual meetings.

If your company’s employees don’t have conference calling accounts, get them one. Audio and web conferencing are extremely affordable and very effective. If they are done right, you can promote interactivity the same way you would do in a conference room and in fact, get more out of those people who might not speak up in a live meeting.

Conduct virtual sales calls or customer meetings

There is nothing that beats a face to face meeting to establish relationships, read body language and bond with your customers. But right now, the opportunity to do so has diminished. So do the next best thing. Shoo the kids and dogs out of your home office, put on your business attire, get rid of the junk in the background and do a meeting with your webcam. Now, they can see you and you can read their responses all from the comfort of your home.

Use business texting.

Our company uses Slack to connect with each other when people are working remotely and also connect with our software development team overseas. I can look at the Slack dashboard, know when people are online, send images or files through the system, or group people together for a chat discussion. It’s quick, efficient, and gets the job done.

Set a time for a quick personal catch up.

When you are in a physical office, you can walk down the hall, congregate in the lunchroom and connect with your co-workers. If your team is homebound, consider setting aside a few times during the day for personal catchups just to make sure the team stays engaged.

Rethink your trade show strategy

Two of the telecommunications and cloud industry trade shows, one in Vegas and the other in Orlando were cancelled last minute because of the Coronavirus. Think about the disruption in travel, events, missed promotional opportunity and people’s schedules. Our company is helping the industry adjust by holding a virtual trade show called Cloud Conventions.

Of course, we can’t have the sparkle that a trade show pub crawl would have, and you can’t walk away with the bag of pens and giveaways that load your suitcase down, but you can adjust. Interaction happens in live chat and virtual meetings. Content is delivered by speakers over the web, then available online. There are giveaways but think of them as virtual swag where you might get a gift card instead of a plush toy or a pen.

Takeaways

The Coronavirus presents a lot of unknowns, but if we continue to panic and forget just how much technology allows us to make the needed adjustments, we’ll fail to pivot and keep doing business despite the disruption. And once the Coronavirus has passed as did the SARS epidemic and even the garden variety flu, we should think about what pivots we made that we should keep doing.

People adopted conferencing as a stand way of communicating after 9/11 and created unprecedented business efficiencies. Perhaps we should add virtual trade shows to our marketing strategy so that people who didn’t have the time or the money to fly to Vegas can still get an interactive, educational and online experience without the risk and hassle of getting on an airplane.

My advice is to pivot, not panic and when corona is in the rear view mirror, be glad we have technology to keep things moving.

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