Looking back over the events of the past 3 months, I’m certain we can all agree it’s been a roller coaster of emotions, anxieties, stresses, and zaps of energies we’ve never before encountered—and hopefully at least in my lifetime we’ll never have to endure this again. But we are emerging—better and stronger.
In one of The Parker Avery Group’s recent Reconstructing Retail webinars, “Mobilizing & Sustaining a Resilient Organization,” Marty Anderson talked about the three ways energy can be depleted from a person: societal, organizational, and personal. As Marty explained, because we each have a finite amount of energy to spend, and COVID-19 disruption is very fiercely hitting all three of these at once, most of us are exhausted emotionally and physically without even really understanding why. I’ve thought about and discussed this topic many times over past few weeks because of how applicable it is in my own life and in the organizational impacts I’m seeing as businesses begin to emerge.
Yet recently, despite our collective sheer exhaustion of the past few months, we’ve also all begun to witness the beginnings of our “new world,” and many are starting to plan for a brighter future beyond this pandemic.
Granted, it’s not over. Not nearly. But we are seeing increasing glimmers of hope and light, as states and businesses begin their cautious process of re-opening. And throughout it all, we’ve seen communities, companies, and other organizations pull together and find strengths, skills, personalities, and commonalities we never knew existed.
In our neighborhoods, families are suddenly planting vegetable gardens to the extent that many seed companies have begun to run out of stock. I think about the new worlds these efforts are opening up for the next generation of farmers, agriculture scientists, and environmentalists, and the ways these children will be able to infuse technology and new thinking into these specialties for a better, healthier future.
Our schools are finding innovative and fun ways to teach even the youngest of kids through distance learning. I think of the children who are sick at home or even hospitalized in normal times and the new possibilities that can now keep them engaged with their schoolmates, friends, and teachers—and the tremendous positive effect this camaraderie can have on their recovery.
I’m not saying I’m in love with the devastation on our economy, many families, and countless businesses. It’s been a nightmare in many ways, and our daily prayers are with those most impacted. But I do believe that not many of the new possibilities would have emerged—at least not nearly this soon—without the pandemic.
Small businesses are tapping into digital methods like never before and opening up brand new channels for those who may be “stuck” at home and can’t get out, shop, or socialize—whether because of the pandemic or due to other reasons. In my own small town, a local home décor chain has experienced record sales over the last 2 months due to the speed and enthusiasm of the store owner and staff in successfully launching and navigating a series of online “live” shopping events. These events have not only introduced the brand to an entirely new audience of shoppers, but they very quickly created a close-knit community of consumers that have become fiercely loyal brand ambassadors and solidified new relationships that would have never existed prior to COVID-19.
Behind the scenes is a slightly different story, but still ultimately a resounding success. With a homegrown POS system, and over 330 individual vendors across 6 locations (each with highly variable and unique product assortments), the retail stores weren’t set up to process sales transactions remotely or handle quick store-to-store transfers. Not even close. At first it was a back-of-the-house disaster on many levels.
But there was grit, determination, tapping of skills, mistakes, learning, relearning, trying new things, and crossing fingers. And yes: late-night system coding and configuration, quickly implementing new processes and applications with minimal testing and training, searching through scattered inventory to find products and determine pricing, and of course managing customer expectations. A LOT of it. But this was not the time our band of retail associates, small business owners, and vendors was going to sit back and cry and be defeated. If you’ve ever been through a retail system implementation, you can understand what I’m talking about.
Parker Avery’s CEO, Robert Kaufman said it perfectly in his recent blog, “Fortune Favors the Bold,” where he echoed this sentiment, saying, “…in many cases, the circumstances uncovered the very best of organizations, and these characteristics should not be put back ‘into the drawer.’ Rather, leading companies need to operationalize these skills and put them to good use as we all emerge from the pandemic.”
With this sentiment, translate my small business example to your own situation. Even larger retailers and consumer brands need to break down the barriers of yesterday, leverage new skills and learnings, and enable their merchandising, product development, operations, and supply chain teams to take bold chances and make more informed, quicker, and smarter decisions.
We still are very uncertain about tomorrow. We can use history, science, art, and experiences to try to predict our future, but there are no guarantees, and we know it.
But now is the time to take chances. Now, if any, is the time to be bold. Minded, not without at least some vetting and precautions, but what do you have to lose? As the late great Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
So, grab your PPE, pull up your fancy pants (and mask), and get out there to take that first bold step.
If you want to toss around some ideas for your own business to emerge successfully from the pandemic and going forward, we invite you to contact Parker Avery.
Cover image by Frank Meitzke from Pixabay