2020 has sent a lot of businesses in a new direction — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Article by Serenity Gibbons
There’s a lot of tough or discouraging news during an economic downturn — not to mention during a pandemic and an all-around overwhelming year. Some businesses are scaling back their projections or shutting their doors altogether, not making it past this breaking point.
But there are still companies making quick decisions, and there are lessons to be learned. Sure, there’s been a big uptick in Roomba sales, but most success doesn’t happen by accident or in a vacuum.
Fill a Need Quickly
There’s enormous demand for real-time data, especially in supply chains, in order to maximize efficiency during a pandemic. MarketWatch talked about this with business intelligence analyst Galla Pupel; anyone in retail should take notice.
If you don’t work in data, however, there are faster ways to provide help to an underserved market. Simple apps can be really impactful. NOTIFY launched a straightforward big-button app for senior living facilities, a population adversely impacted by COVID-19 that needs immediate help.
The intent of the app is simple: If you make it easy for seniors to use video chat technology on a phone, you can increase virtual medical visits and limit exposure. There’s a also a mental health benefit to being able to stay in contact with family and friends from afar.
That’s not hard to create if you’re a developer, and that’s one example of how a simple solution could have an outsized impact on a population in need. Reverse engineer your thought process, and start with where the greatest needs lie right now. COVID-19 is unlikely to disappear anytime soon, meaning the need for quick and easy solutions will only increase.
Don’t Forget About Your Team
People staying home also led to less access to childcare, as well as other functions associated with a busy work lifestyle. Parents became full-time teachers and workers simultaneously.
Rover, a dog-walking app company based in Seattle, started working from home early because it could technologically manage and WFH policies were already part of its culture. With most people home, that created a temporary drop in demand for a service to walk workers’ dogs. The leaders of Rover knew that would happen. With employees working, parenting, and dealing with uncertainty, they quickly built mental health support into their workday.
These leaders communicate daily with employees to check in on how they’re doing, not just how the company is doing. They encourage walking during meetings to get fresh air, which is also on brand. They host monthly digital coffee meetings between their executives and every employee to ask questions, share advice, and connect. All of these structures were created on the fly because the company recognized its employees’ needs in a time of uncertainty.
If your employees know your company is committed to their mental health, they’re more likely to stay committed to your company. Whether it’s consumers or employees, people want to know that, as a company, you’re committed to more than the bottom line.
Build for Speed
Healthcare workers have been impacted by this pandemic more than most. While some have been overworked, others have lost their jobs and are quickly retraining to work in fields that are still up and running. To speed things up and meet demand, healthcare education provider Carrus launched shorter courses to help people find immediate work in healthcare.
Contact tracer, home health aide, caregiver, and telehealth positions are in-demand jobs at the moment that aren’t tied to national certifications. These courses enable learners to get in, get out, and get working at an even faster pace to join the war on COVID-19.
Shorter courses, faster entry, and career paths are elements that a lot of education providers will pivot to incorporate this year. This shorter time commitment may also attract job seekers or people shifting careers who have never worked in healthcare before.
The key here, as in any industry, is to recognize what will be most valuable in the short term and find a way to provide it. Educational institutions and healthcare aren’t historically known for quick change — if they can pivot, you can pivot.
Lend Your Platform to Important Voices
Even if you’re not building something new or creating a product, an impact can still be made. COVID-19 isn’t the only important thing happening right now. The push for racial equality is real and can’t be ignored. Pinterest recently launched Stories in beta. In collaboration with culture consultancy Warm Robots, the brand tapped nine leaders to tell brave stories.
Pinterest could have launched that in a variety of ways, focused on cool ways to hack an IKEA bookshelf. But choosing to be intentional and work with a place focused on diversity of thought and talent sent a message.
These examples of success in the midst of chaos might inspire you to go out and make changes during a tough year. More problems, after all, just signal a greater need for solutions — and smart entrepreneurs willing to create them.