The COVID-19 pandemic is spreading rapidly, causing unprecedented economic disruption and immense global impact amid uncertainty. On one end, industries such as the paper product manufacturers cannot keep up with the high demand while restaurants and bars have been required to stop dine-in services in certain states. No business will be left unaffected from the economic toll of the Coronavirus. How can you effectively lead your team through the panic and chaos of these uncertain times?

Brad Sugars, ActionCOACH’s Founder and CEO, shared 12 tips in a webinar last week on how to survive (and even thrive) as business leaders through the Coronavirus crisis from an economic standpoint. I have expanded on his key points below, but tune into his full webinar here.

1. Communicate: Your team and your customers are looking to you for guidance right now. 

Don’t let worry and panic lead to unproductive negativity. Whether your news is good, bad, or ugly, it is important to communicate with your team DAILY to give them updates on the decisions and changes being made on a leadership level.

Don’t delay communicating your business’s precautions with your current and potential customers. Others to keep in mind when planning your communication strategy are your suppliers, stakeholders, and local community. Great avenues to reach them include e-newsletters, social media and press releases. Keeping the conversation going within your network controls the narrative and builds key relationships between your customers and your brand.

2. Stay positive: Look for new opportunities. 

With massive change, comes opportunity. Turn off the news and push back the paralyzing feelings of panic and worry to look for small wins in each day. Lead your people – they are looking to you as a role model for positivity and gratitude in these difficult times.

Find a way to take advantage of the current situation, so you can see better results today. How can you better lead your people through this economic impact? Continually ask yourself, “what can be done?” and you will come out ahead of competitors who are sitting back and accepting defeat.

3. Understand the cycles of the economy: a 7-to-10-year cycle. 

The economy moves in a cycle, which have stayed consistent within a 7 to 10-year span. The U.S. has had a strong economic boom (the summer season) that has gotten us past the 10-year mark from the market crash of ‘08. However, at the end of every summer comes the fall and winter.

Will this fall/winter last long? We’ll know more over the next week or so as we keep an eye on China and Italy, where we are already seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases. We can expect for the “winter” season of low economic growth to be shorter than in 2008, as our economy should spring back quickly once the virus has peaked and the spread begins to decrease.

4. Changes in your business: Don’t wait until it is impacting you. 

Now is the time to get ahead of the potential crisis to minimize the damage to your business. It’s time to make a plan! Ask yourself the following questions: what changes do I need to make in my products, services, prices, delivery and staffing to survive the pandemic?

Consider the formula for change: (Dissatisfaction x Vision) + First Steps > Resistance. If you are waiting to make a change until your dissatisfaction is high, you’re too late. If you think it will all blow over in a couple of days, what if it doesn’t? The worse thing that could happen if you implement these changes now, is that you’ll have a leaner, faster, better business sooner if you start today.

5. Cut back: Find where you can stop unnecessary spending. 

Cash is king! In times of crisis, it is advised to cut spending on expenses that do not directly help your business grow. Continue to spend on marketing and sales, but consider negotiating fees and minimize upgrades that you can live without in the next 30-90 days, and reevaluate at that time. Postpone extra spending if your business is slowing down, and cutting back can also help you increase your cash flow to meet the demands of production if your business demands are speeding up.

Take a look at the top 10 industries that are booming right now because of the virus. Turn your focus to these industries and find ways that your business could help them.

6. Extend your credit: RUN (don’t walk) to the bank while they are still offering it. 

Banks are still lending right now. Extend your credit lines and open more credit cards while you still can. You’ll want to have that extra credit, so you’ll have the ability to spend more during the recession. Also consider refinancing if you have to. Renegotiating your rates to get the lowest rate as possible can help minimize your expenses.

7. Staffing cuts/changes: Do what you need to survive. 

Layoffs may need to happen for your business to survive. What efforts can you make to avoid it? Consider encouraging your staff take their vacations and accrued paid time off now during the downtime. Can cutting back on hours for your staff keep them employed? Pay cuts are also an option. Suspend your bonus programs to tighten your belt through this phase.

If you know you need to make layoffs, do so today. With the uncertainty of the timeframe of this virus, don’t put it off until your business is a sinking ship. For mass layoffs, it’s best to do it all at one time.

8. Go virtual: Make a plan to work from home. 

Having a work-from-home option allows business to continue while minimizing risk of spreading the Coronavirus. It’s important to have a plan in place so that this transition is as smooth as possible. Here are a few aspects to consider: Will your technology needs be met? How will you communicate and conduct meetings with your team and your customers when you are out of the office or not available in person? How will you share reporting and minimize disruption on day-to-day tasks?

Create remote procedures for customer service, banking and mailing to help your business continue to function as normal outside of the physical office. It could be just for a week or two… or it could last for months!

9. Online deliveries: How is your virtual user experience? 

Can your business be conducted online and through a delivery service? As your customers are encouraged to stay home and distance themselves socially, you still need to be able to serve them, but possibly through a different platform than you normally do. Do you have online technology to make this possible?

From a logistic perspective, how do you need to change your staff’s roles to accommodate for delivery platforms? Do you need to reconsider how you package and brand your items? Stay proactive by thinking these issues through and make a plan!

10. Marketing and selling: Keep spending, but embrace changes. 

In times of economic crisis, marketing is the last cost you should cut. But, you must change your marketing messaging to better fit the customer’s new set of needs. Your customers are panicked, worried, and thinking about products and services differently. How can you best meet their current needs? Can you create special rates or offers to motivate customers to keep spending money with you considering the current market?

Measure your “Five Ways to Massive Profit”. In times of crisis knowing your numbers is important. How many leads do you have? What is your conversion rate?

11. Focus on repeat business: Your VIPs in times of crisis. 

Existing customers are the best customers! Keeping them happy is the most vital thing you can do right now. Make sure they feel like they are important and valued. Stay in frequent communication with them, offering them special deals to encourage them to keep spending. Consider offering ways for your customers to “buy in bulk,” saving them more while giving you more cash upfront.

12. Bonus tip: Common sense and compassion.

Focus on customer service during this time. While you can’t control the economy, you can go over and above to make sure it is easy for your customers to do business with you. Showing common sense and compassion is very important right now.

 Put the safety of people first – customers and employees alike. Be sure you are maximizing your cleaning efforts at your office and storefront. Provide hand sanitizer and implement “elbow bumps” instead of handshakes.