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Challenging days are good times to try something different

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One word we haven’t been associating with the COVID-19 pandemic is “opportunity.” Recession, quarantine, masks, front-line workers, essential personnel…yeah, we use those terms all the time. But opportunity? That’s wishful thinking, right?

We’re not trying to downplay this global crisis. With an unemployment rate hovering around 15 percent and headed upward, these are terrible days in America. But as businesses start reopening and the economy gets going again, there are things business owners and managers should consider in order to make the best of challenging circumstances. New ways of thinking often make businesses better places to shop and work.

Throw out the playbook

Try something that once would have been considered outrageous. Back in the good old days of late 2019, many industries could have gone with the tried and true. There wasn’t much sense in switching things up when profits were rolling in. This year and the foreseeable future are different. Even when businesses reopen, customers will need to be lured back.

During a fireside chat with Fast Company recently, Mattel President and COO Richard Dickson said his company once redefined itself by launching the first gender-neutral Barbie as well as diverse dolls with different body types, skin tones and hair, all intended to more closely reflect today’s world. If an iconic brand like Barbie can be shaken up, so can any business.

Keep working from home

Businesses that can allow remote work should stay the course. Big companies like Facebook and Google are extending their stay-home policies through the end of the year. Many workers are going to be concerned about coming back to an office, so at the very least, employers will need to bring people back in waves. Why go through all that trouble for the sake of getting everyone under one roof? If remote work is going well, businesses should keep it that way until medical experts say it’s safe to reconvene.

Concentrate on culture

Many employees or their families have suffered through direct impacts of the coronavirus. Owners and managers should show them how much they care and how they value their contributions. Now is the time to focus on worker satisfaction and a well-focused mission. People want to feel valued and employers need to up their internal communications efforts. We keep hearing “we’re all in this together” in TV advertising. That should be the focus as businesses reopen.

Commit to the community

Strong communities help businesses succeed. And businesses can do a lot to strengthen cities and towns. People across the country are hurting because of high unemployment and a fear of the unknown. Business can provide relief by supporting local causes such as food banks and schools. Our world won’t be the same anytime soon but local businesses can play  a role in providing a better sense of normalcy.

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