Business principles for business uncertainty

Jeff Bezos. Mary Barra. Bill Gates. Sheryl Sandberg. These world-renowned business thought leaders are facing the same scenario we are – complete uncertainty. We’re all waking up every day wondering what impact COVID-19 will have on our world, businesses, teams and families. There’s not a single case study for any of us to turn to. Regardless of this uncertainty, some key principles can steer business leaders through the unknown.

Mission Critical & Embracing Mission

Business focus, team roles and even product deliverables can change drastically while responding to a crisis. Leaders need to identify and communicate the role of each team member and leader in how they can help see the business through a crisis. Research shows that when employees, at every level, understand the bigger purpose of their contribution, they are more productive and loyal. More than ever, times of crisis are times to empower your team to step up to new levels of success. During times of crisis, communicating clear expectations is even more vital to team success and maintaining continuity.

In Times of Crisis – Character Counts 

When theme parks in Florida closed, they donated food to local food banks, and large companies have set up funding for those in need. Doing your part for your company – and the community – is never more important than in times like these. During times of crisis, think about how you can help. What you can offer to those in the local business community, your clients, partners, vendors and local leaders to give them a hand up. Every business – enterprise or small – can make a profound impact on our community. Actions during this time say everything about our leadership’s character.

Pivot. Pivot Again and Maybe Even Again  

The response of American businesses to COVID-19 has been nothing short of inspirational. Craft breweries producing hand sanitizer and manufacturers outside of medtech making respirators. These business leaders have learned – in a matter of weeks – how their brands can serve an important new purpose. They teach us the importance of being nimble and resilient in the face of uncertainty, as markets, technology and consumer demands change at a pace fiercer than ever before. Becoming adaptable is the lifeblood to long-term sustainability. While the best time to assess your flexibility is before crisis strikes, sometimes there is no time like the present to start.

Don’t Look Back Because the World Changed Forever

From closing a storefront or closing completely, to moving a company to fully remote operations, businesses across our country have needed to make some gut-wrenching decisions in a matter of days. Today, “business as usual” speed isn’t fast enough for your customers and audiences. Evolving is a mandate of everyday business in a hypercompetitive industry, but in a crisis – those that remain standing will have seen that as a multiplying opportunity. The lesson? Analyze and understand the new business and competitive environment you’re operating in. Understand that the world has changed. The quicker leaders accept and embrace the “new” normal, the greater the chances for long-term sustainability and success.

If there’s one thing being the CEO of an advertising agency has taught me, it’s that true leadership prevails in the most challenging of times. As the American business community responds to this global pandemic in heroic ways, we can all evolve in ways we never imagined. Our individual, as well as collective resolve, will strengthen the fabric of our enterprise for generations to come.

Godspeed to every business owner and leader fighting for survival today.

Colleen Chappell

Colleen Chappell is president and CEO of ChappellRoberts, one of Tampa’s largest advertising agencies. Serving clients in a diverse range of industries for 40 years, the full-service branding and advertising agency specializes in brand development and activation across fully integrated, multi-media campaigns.


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