Considering the enormous challenges the coronavirus has brought upon manufacturers and distributors in the equipment industry (and every industry!), you can’t help but wonder: Who will be left standing?
Below are ten characteristics that, when the pandemic is over, will identify those organizations that stood the test of time. These companies will have tackled the uncertainty of COVID-19 and employed sound business practices to ensure future growth after the most challenging business climate since 2008.
The following are actions they will have taken:
1. Business slowed down, so they cut costs and furloughed people because they had no choice, but they ramped up their strategic planning sessions.
The smartest people in their company, regardless of title or rank, participated in these sessions using videoconferencing. They looked at their business operations from the point of view of unbiased outside consultants. Together, they acknowledged the harsh realities their company was facing and identified the best actions to take that would help to build their business after the coronavirus and its implications ended. They knew they would have to accept that business had changed dramatically, and they would have to plan carefully, all the while realizing the necessity of shifting gears along the way if their plans or strategies did not result in the desired outcome.
They addressed their company’s strengths and weaknesses and identified critical action steps to achieve their goals. They devised and implemented relationship strategies aimed at helping them win over new customers. They focused on positioning their sales staff as indispensable business partners to their customers and made sure their sales teams stayed in touch with prospects and past customers to offer help or advice. Most importantly, they changed the way they thought, accepted and adapted to the dramatic changes that were occurring, and made a group commitment to meet their challenges head-on. They vowed not to get stuck in the past and to help all employees become positive about the future, encouraging them to believe that although it wouldn’t happen overnight, there would be a better future for everyone. To ensure regular commitment to the mission at hand, they planned periodic meetings with their workforce and management retreats to evaluate progress.
2. Complacency was the enemy.
The successful companies challenged the status quo and took risks – not frivolously, but supported by rational decision-making. They researched top-performing distributors and manufacturers to obtain ideas. They encouraged idea-sharing among employees working from home by offering rewards for the best ideas – even from the ones they had to lay off. They adopted even bolder marketing and advertising strategies and planned to fund their communications campaigns competitively. They figured out how to reinvent their entire business to become nimble, more flexible, customer-focused, and more diversified. They promoted their environmental consciousness in their marketing and public relations campaigns because they realized it was not only the smart thing to do but also the right thing to do.
3. They became value-added companies.
They realized and exploited the fact that much of the value they provided to customers was not only in the quality of products and product support but also in the superior knowledge they had to offer. They became value-added organizations, knowing how critical their expertise was to their bottom line. They helped their customers far more than any competitor would help them, knowing that customers appreciate it during tough times. Though it was hard for them financially, they offered “zero down, zero payments” for several months.
4. They got serious about customer service.
Every single aspect of the customer experience was analyzed. Service flaws were identified, and plans were made to eliminate them fast! Systems and procedures were streamlined so that the business, branches, and departments ran like well-oiled machines. Product support staff knew their performance was critical to the success and profitability of their organizations. Executives and general managers made sure their salespeople and product support staff understood their customers’ businesses so they could anticipate their needs. They consistently brainstormed and implemented ways to improve and put the “wow” factor into their customers’ experience, keeping in mind that no detail was too small. They established service standards in every aspect of every role and determined methods for all employees to serve each other better.
Sales, marketing, and customer service departments worked hand in hand. They made plans to establish an even better reputation for consistently exceptional service. They knew customer confidence would increase, revenue would increase, and customers would become loyal advocates who helped spread the word.
5. Technology helped these companies work faster than their competitors and closer to customers.
They escalated their use of social media and creativity was applied with every tweet, blog, Facebook post and YouTube video. Their websites were far superior to those of their competitors and were optimized for the highest search engine placement. Video clips were on their main page and throughout their site, which included product demos and information on product maintenance. They recognized that great content was crucial.
6. They became learning organizations and learned faster than their competitors.
They realized that during the downturn, when business was slow, it would be the best time to improve their skills. Webinars were provided. Their sales teams studied and mastered every single aspect of Sales 101 and went on to advanced sales training in negotiation, sales communication and presentation skills. They became masters at building relationships. Leadership training was mandatory to ensure that all management would lead in the same way. Sales managers learned new methods of managing and motivating their teams, as well as keeping them motivated through tough times.
7. Every person in the company lived and breathed its core values.
All leaders and employees consistently demonstrated and operated from the core values of honesty, integrity, teamwork, respect, excellence, accountability, social and environmental consciousness, health, safety, family and other values intrinsic to their company’s culture. Leaders recognized that employees observed their actions and behavior during challenging times. They led by example, spoke with confidence and set the tone for their employees to follow. Together, the company and its people developed an obsession to deliver their best performance – with every customer, every day.
8. Executives and managers always treated their people the same way they treated their best customers.
But during the pandemic, they demonstrated just how much they cared about their employees by asking if they needed help, and helping them. They fully realized that the people in their company would carry their organization into a successful future.
Servant leadership, sales and customer service excellence and employee involvement became organizational cornerstones. These companies had zero tolerance for bad bosses. They knew that having outstanding bosses and creating a great place to come to work each day was the best way to keep people motivated and performing at their best.
9. The execution was a substantial part of their strategy.
Those companies that survived the downturn recognized that knowing what should be done and actually doing it are two very different things. They applied the art of execution and established specific criteria for measuring excellence and ensuring accountability.
10. They did not stop believing in themselves, their businesses, their people and a better future. They kept their eye on the prize.
They had only one goal – to emerge from the fray with their business stronger, more vibrant and, eventually, more prosperous than before, with solid prospects for continued future growth and success.
Successful companies took all of these steps and many more, including other strategies and tactics they learned during educational sessions at the AED Summit and other valuable events.
You’ve Seen the Future. Now What will you Do?
The question you should be asking now is, “In the long run, will I still be standing?”
Am I doing the things now that will translate into a successful future? What do I need to improve on? What do I need to change? What could happen if I don’t? And, of those things that I’m already doing, how can I do them even better?
If you are not sure of the answers, get moving on these ten strategies to help ensure your success for the long run. Overcoming the challenges caused by the coronavirus won’t happen by itself. It takes the willpower of an entire organization to succeed, and that starts at the top.
© Christine Corelli & Associates • christinespeaks.com • 847- 477-7376