For Those Who Weren’t Given a Choice

Sometimes, things come out of the blue that you couldn’t possibly imagine; you are caught off guard by a competitor’s new product, your facility is destroyed by a natural disaster, you need to fall in line with new government regulations, or you must find a way to recover from the untimely death of a key leader. Are you able to react to these unforeseen circumstances and recover? Or is this the end of the road for you?

Every company in the world had to ask themselves these questions in 2020 due to COVID-19. Originating out of China, COVID-19 is a strain of virus that had not been previously identified in humans. The virus is primarily transmitted by breathing in the virus when you are in close proximity to someone who is already infected or by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

The ease of transference and relatively high mortality rate caused virtually every country in the world to have confirmed cases of COVID-19. Because of this, governments around the globe created strict policies that citizens were required to follow. This predominantly centered on stay-at-home orders and social distancing directives.

The pandemic caused every business in the world to adjust how it functioned. For example, restaurants could only serve takeout; grocery stores had strict rules for customers; and movie theaters, amusement parks, and entertainment centers were closed temporarily. Further, any business or role that was not deemed essential had to either change or stop functioning completely. Remote work skyrocketed, conference calls and virtual meetings became commonplace, and almost everyone who had to physically go into their workplace was responsible for wearing personal protective equipment.

In this unprecedented time, no one knew what was going to happen and no one felt comfortable. Even those who believed they had scripted out every conceivable scenario were caught off guard and lacked awareness of what would happen next. This caused thousands of companies to fold, millions of people to lose their jobs, and organizations throughout the world to transform the way they functioned.

How would pharmacies dispense medications? Airline companies transport passengers? And high schools and colleges teach classes? Everything was different, seemingly overnight.

Though another devastating scenario like this is not likely to occur again in the foreseeable future, this type of situation does happen to companies on a smaller scale all the time. A specific activity, scenario, or issue materializes that requires an immediate shift. The companies that are able to overcome the sudden transformations quickly and efficiently pivot their business and identify alternative ways to provide value. They thrive in the face of adversity.

For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, large car companies began making ventilators, distilleries made hand sanitizer, restaurants converted exclusively to to-go orders, and yoga studios and fitness centers began hosting classes online. Disney World even streamed their fireworks to provide a glimmer of hope and cheer in this time of grimness.

Yet, for others, the catastrophic effects of COVID-19 proved too much. Neiman Marcus, an American chain of luxury department stores, had been in business for over 100 years, yet the challenges of COVID-19 overwhelmed the long-standing corporation, causing it to go bankrupt. In a little over 2 months, the once-highly esteemed company was waving the white flag so that they could restructure financially.

JCPenney, Stage Stores (that operates hundreds of Bealls, Goody’s, Palais Royal, Peebles, Stage, and Gordmans), and J.Crew all suffered a similar fate. These companies filed for bankruptcy, closed hundreds of stores, and let go of thousands of employees.

At some point, something beyond your control will affect your business. For many, this sudden change has the potential to destroy you. If this is the case for you, you must take a step back and assess how you will absorb unexpected shifts and abrupt disruptions.

A sudden change in the workplace can be a captivating narrative. However, how you handle the situation is significantly more important. When you are dealing with a challenge that you did not see coming, appreciate the importance of transitioning quickly and efficiently. It has the potential to save your operation.

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