When the COVID-19 pandemic started, many business owners faced an uncertain future. How would the pandemic affect their employees? Would the business survive? What changes should they make to keep their business going?
Andrew Horn is the co-founder of Tribute, a company that helps individuals send collaborative video messages – tributes – to friends and loved ones. When the pandemic hit, Horn found himself asking these same questions about his small business; however, he soon had other worries.
"For us, the pandemic made our value proposition much clearer to users and led to massive growth," he said. "Users, revenue and staff are up exponentially."
At the onset of the pandemic, Horn and the Tribute team shifted their business plan and made their core product, the DIY, completely free to support everyone impacted by the coronavirus, which resulted in an onslaught of positive press coverage.
"In early March, we realized that millions of important gatherings were about to be canceled due to COVID-19," Horn said. "The decision to offer our core product free of charge … reaffirmed our mission and purpose to create social technology that fosters meaningful connection in the world."
Going from 10 to 100 employees – how to adapt your business quickly
While the changes happening for Tribute were all positive, there was a serious learning curve transitioning from 10 to 100 employees in four months.
"We could have quit hundreds of times when it got hard," Horn said. "It took us seven years to be an overnight success. But at the end of the day, we love this company and are deeply connected to the mission."
Change is unavoidable, especially in business, but there are plenty of ways you can ensure your business is always ready to adapt to new changes, whether those changes are big or small.
For Horn, it was keeping everyone connected to the mission and valuing employees over everything else.
"I have never regretted a second that I spent putting into my employees and their well-being," said Horn. "We've grown from 10 people to 100 in around four months, and the secret sauce that holds everything together is that our employees feel appreciated, connected to one another, and like they have leadership who will listen to them when they have something to say." [Read related article: How to Remotely Onboard New Employees During COVID-19]
Horn also made sure that employees were mindful of the company's mission, which encouraged focus and motivation, and provided a focal point for employees during a period of upheaval.
Here are six more ways your business can stay adaptable.
Keep an eye on your industry.
By regularly taking stock of your business environment and industry, you place yourself in a better position to become hyperaware of impending changes so you can then quickly act on them. One way to stay vigilant is to conduct regular market analyses, which will give you an in-depth understanding of your market.
Be open to change.
This might sound like a no-brainer, but it's tougher than most people think, especially if you've been in business for a while. Be accepting of new ideas and new avenues, and remember why you went into your business in the first place: It wasn't to stay stagnant.
Balance the opportunities of the future with the needs of the present.
One of the keys to being open to future change is by staying plugged into the present, with one eye to the future. The best adaptations come from integrating future ideas with what currently works for your business. Don't lose sight of what your business needs to run effectively in the present, and don't get too focused looking ahead. To ensure a proper balance, set aside time each week to devote to future planning, and focus on day-to-day tasks in the meantime.
Expand your thinking.
Take a look at your everyday activities and what aspects of your business you regularly interact with. Are there other aspects of your business you don't understand quite as well? Are there parts of your business you could learn that might give your company an edge over your competitors?
Make sure your employees are prepared and on board.
As Horn learned, the heart of a company is its employees, and adaptability won't happen if you don't prepare and train your employees for it. Share with your team key findings you've gleaned from your market analyses, and explain your thinking behind major changes you might make to the company.
Use other companies in your industry as examples and benchmarks.
Often, the first step in creating major change within your company is studying other innovative companies, Horn explained.
"You don't have to make it up," he said. "If you are planning to make a major shift in your company, your product, or your culture, benchmark your innovation off of what other people are doing or have already done in your industry."
By arming yourself with research and knowledge of what other businesses have done, you are better positioned to implement big changes in your own business.
How to stay adaptable
After those initial steps to make your business adaptable, keep the momentum going, and don't settle back into the status quo.
Continue analyzing your industry, seek out places where you can improve your business, and try to learn as much as you can about how your employees do their jobs every day. This can help you see inefficiencies or provide a new perspective on how to complete a task that you might not have considered before, which could lead to big change that benefits your whole company.
As the pace of change in the business world accelerates, don't lose sight of what's really important. A report by Dell Technologies forecasting the state of emerging technologies in 2030 predicts, "The pace of change will be so rapid that people will learn 'in the moment' using new technologies. The ability to gain new knowledge will be more valuable than the knowledge itself."
The most important thing you can do to help your company stay nimble is to remain open to new information, equip yourself with the tools to use that information, and get comfortable with taking risks.
"To innovate, you need to take risks and try something new," said Horn. "It is much easier and more comfortable to keep doing things the way you did them yesterday, but that is also a great way to ensure your business will fall out of relevance."