Over the course of the last year, it’s been remarkable to watch successful adjustments to remote work, new innovation projects and everything in between, as small businesses across the nation quickly adapted to changes brought on by the pandemic. As we’ve surpassed the one-year mark of COVID-19 and inch closer to a return to normalcy, it’s likely many of these notable changes to business operations are here to stay. But what does that mean? How do we prepare? Is there a clear blueprint for post-pandemic success? While 2020 posed significant challenges, business leaders have been strategically preparing to prevail post-pandemic.
After a successful Q1 2021 performance with franchise growth, new openings and rising enrollment, I can confidently say the below best practices are must-haves for a strong post-pandemic playbook:
Remain a visionary
Even during times of uncertainty, it is your responsibility as a leader to articulate a clear and focused vision that is consistently communicated throughout the entire organization. This will continue to be the foundational element that serves as a guiding light as your team comes together to collaborate, innovate and adjust.
Brand vision brings clarity to the “why” behind the work and provides shared direction to all team members to move fast and focused on what matters most. As a result, you’re building a team that is more invested in its work, understands the value of its roles, has higher morale and feels empowered and confident about the future, no matter what setbacks were previously faced.
Invest in technology
The roller coaster that was 2020 has validated the importance of clear and frequent communication to ensure business functionality and stability. For post-pandemic success, this means investing in technology platforms for streamlined communication. As business travel will likely be a slow return, you must have tech tools in place to allow for seamless organizational connection, communication and collaboration. Doing so will foster a culture of teamwork within your organization.
Grow forward-thinking teams empowered to act
The pandemic brought to light the importance of having a healthy organization filled with employees who operate according to your core values: those team members who “get it,” “want it” and have the capacity to “do it.”
There is no time to waste for getting your business on track for post-pandemic success, and all of your team members must be aligned and empowered to achieve results. It’s critical for leaders to delegate and trust team members to do their jobs and take on additional responsibilities in stride. The pandemic likely forced your team members to take on new tasks and embrace the unknown — which is a good thing! Lean into this, and build a team of entrepreneurs who are forward thinking, as this type of culture will allow for continuous innovation, constant learning, new ways of thinking and overall business progression.
Strong leaders empower their people, and that — in turn — fosters accountability that propels your company forward.
Prioritize customer service
While tech and innovation reign supreme for pandemic pivots, we must not lose sight of human connection, emotion and empathy as it relates to the customer experience.
The business environment has changed, and the way you service your customers must be elevated. The status quo no longer exists. It is critical to go above and beyond with every detail to take care of your clients and customers. In some cases, this might require the development of new initiatives or retraining of team members.
For example, we know it’s our “GOLDEN Experience” that drives our members to continuously choose Goldfish Swim School, so we will continue to prioritize and invest in customer service.
What drives your business?
Data must become a priority in informing your post-pandemic strategy to bring back and re-engage your customer base. We can all make assumptions and draw conclusions based on our personal experience and anecdotal evidence. However, none have quantitative support or statistical significance. Data, metrics, statistics and, most importantly, insights cannot be overlooked.
By listening to your customers and gaining a deeper sense of how they’re feeling, you equip yourself with a better understanding of how your brand can make positive adjustments that directly impact your company’s bottom line.
For example, amid the pandemic, we conducted a reopening survey across our different markets to get a pulse on our members’ needs and comfort levels as we prepared to reopen our schools. In an effort to continue to place our members’ experience and safety at the top of our priority list, we also conducted ongoing comfort surveys across our membership base to better understand how we can continue to meet their changing needs during this time. These insights continue to inform new innovations and updates, directly impacting our business’ bottom line.
Post-pandemic playbook key takeaways
If the pandemic taught us anything, it is that things change rapidly without warning, and consumer sentiment and behavior evolve in response. Startups that conduct formal research, pay attention to the data and act in accordance with a people-centric mentality will be the be ones to prevail post-pandemic.
Originally published May 25, 2021.