the post-pandemic world: how to adapt your startup.
Unsurprisingly, survival has been the sole priority for most businesses during coronavirus. But as the post-pandemic world slowly emerges for some countries, the realities, necessities and opportunities that will come next are becoming visible. For startups, it will be a process of throwing out what won’t work anymore and keeping what will, a tentative balancing act and a fundamental reshaping of how they operate.
Whilst the grave consequences of coronavirus are the easiest to dwell on, the opportunities are the most important. After all, some argue that economic downturns are the best time to start a business, and coronavirus hasn’t been an outlier in this respect. Entrepreneurs are still starting businesses, seeing opportunities arise from shifting consumer behaviours, reduced competition and a renewed sense of purpose. And for current businesses, the post-pandemic world is an opportunity to strengthen company culture, enhance customer experience and prioritise innovation like never before. These opportunities, however, aren’t just chances to improve, they’re also necessities to succeed in what comes next.
1. Redefine and strengthen your company culture
For most, the pandemic has been a time of self-reflection; it’s granted businesses a new perspective on who they are, what they believe in and how they work. Coronavirus has not only been a chance to ask these crucial questions about your current company culture but also a chance to realise that the answers to them are likely to change as we slowly exit the fray.
And whilst strong, positive company cultures have long been proven to boost productivity and reduce costs, in the new normal after coronavirus, it’s even more essential. Employees have become remote, meaning that old ways of directing, encouraging and coaching workforces may no longer be effective. Team relationships, communication and opportunities to collaborate have been strained and leaders have to reassess how they build community and support employees. Moreover, employee wellbeing will undoubtedly take on new significance as people become increasingly sensitive to their health and the health of their families. How will you reinforce your relevant values and refine new ones that reflect the changing times?
Internally, strengthening your company culture in a post-pandemic world will be paramount to creating sustainable growth and fuelling a motivated workforce. Externally, a redefined company culture will reassure and inspire existing employees whilst attract customers and talent, playing a critical part in thriving in the near future.
2. Create excellence for customers
One of the most evident consequences of coronavirus is the drastic changes in consumer behaviour. People have lost businesses, had dream holidays cancelled, become anxious about public transport, started prioritising health and wellbeing and shifted to online channels wherever they can.
So, now is the time for startups to identify and address these new behaviours, but crucially address the behaviours that are likely to stay. There is little point in investing time and resources in restaurant delivery as people crave the day their local favourite reopens. But investing in digital channels, safe and contact-free operations and systems that provide real-time analysis of consumer satisfaction and feedback will be invaluable for the post-pandemic world.
Also, as consumers hope to alleviate anxieties, can your startup reduce the barriers of entry to your service? Can you offer flexible payment options and can you make safety transparent and visible? As consumers look for connection in an increasingly distanced world, can your startup foster local, shareable experiences? As consumers value kindness and purpose more, can your startup promote inclusivity, sustainability and meaningful experiences? People have changed, and it’s crucial to acknowledge this through actions.
3. Prioritise innovation
Understandably, there is a need to confront the short-term needs for startups so they can weather the storm – innovation doesn’t trump survival. At the same time, however, history has demonstrated that those who invest in innovation amid a crisis outperform those who didn’t in the recovery phase. History has also shown that crisis can be the impetus for innovation; the SARS outbreak in 2002 charged e-commerce adoption in China and today’s climate crisis has caused waves of innovation in food and energy. Necessity creates innovation and coronavirus is no different.
The pandemic has also revealed new behaviours and uncovered new opportunities in their wake. It’s reset deeply entrenched mindsets, overthrown expectations of how things should be done and prompted relaxations in regulations amongst several industries. Hurdles and brick walls that used to be in front of startups are now nowhere to be seen.
Whilst it’s inspiring to realise the silver linings of a tragedy, it requires a lot to innovate effectively; the transformation of market insights into viable products, an openness to evolution and a questioning of all previous assumptions amongst other key determiners. But if you need more encouragement to seize the post-pandemic world as a chance to innovate, read McKinsey’s report here.
4. Restructure for the new normal
In one study by Founders Forum and Tech Crunch, 84% of startup respondents said they had closed their offices due to coronavirus. Understandable. Yet when asked if a return to the office was critical for the business, 66% it wasn’t, and 53% said they didn’t feel a need to return. Only 13% said they would return to how they worked before with the majority stating they would adopt a remote-first setup or incorporate remote days into a flexible work arrangement. In short, past ways of working aren’t coming back.
To adapt to this, startups have to reconstruct how they work and not simply transplant existing ways of working to the digital context. Just giving someone a laptop doesn’t cut it either. Communication and collaboration have to be rethought, feedback restructured and accountability reworked.
How will projects that involve both online and onsite teams be executed? How can talent be developed within a hybrid structure? Which roles can deliver value remotely and which cannot? And for the office spaces that do exist, how can you reinvent them to reflect both the change in processes and culture? In asking these questions, a startup will be better positioned to improve productivity, attract talent and reduce costs, all whilst creating a safe and positive place to work.
5. Champion agility
In our article on marketing through the pandemic, adopting agile processes was key to aligning marketing efforts with current conversations and enabling rapid testing of strategies in fluctuating times. But it’s not just marketing where agility is supreme post-pandemic, and studies show that businesses who already had agile practices before the outbreak coped and managed the effects of COVID-19 better than those who did not. And with coronavirus demonstrating to the world that anything can happen out of the blue, being able to respond quickly to events like these is critical to survival in the short-term and growth in the long-term.
So, now is the time to consider speeding up decision-making by reducing the number of meetings; building invaluable partnerships that can help deal with unpredictable situations; flattening the organisational structure to create interconnected teams that can collaborate in real-time and empowering small teams who act without barriers of approval. The need for speed is here, and it’s not going away.