In 2009, I led a small team from my church to the Philippines for an exploratory missions trip. As we prepared for our time in Manila, I had our team read through a book titled When Helping Hurts by Fikkert and Corbett. One of the sections of the book dealt with the continuum a group goes through during a crisis. Although originally written with how NGOs or missions organizations typically respond to a natural crisis in mind, this model illustrates how companies are impacted by and are responding to the COVID-19 Crisis.
The continuum looks something like this:
The COVID-19 crisis hit us in March and we have been in stage 1, Relief, the entire time. The goal of this phase is to stop the bleeding and stabilize things. We see this all around us. This is why companies have begun laying off employees. This is why Congress passed the CARES Act. This is why over 80% of Americans are currently under stay-at-home orders.
Unfortunately, this has changed the way we do business overnight. Companies are scrambling, in crisis mode, to set employees up to work at home. Traditional sales and marketing tactics aren’t working during this time as companies are not looking to buy, but are looking to survive.
The key to remember during this phase is that it is not long-term. The relief phase is the shortest of the three. From a business-to-business sales and marketing perspective, this is the time that we need to keep the long-game in mind and move away from a transactional mindset. We need to focus on adding value and helping others rather than the old school ABC (Always Be Closing) mindset during this phase.
Once things stabilize, companies will then begin moving into the Rehabilitation phase. During this phase, the goal is to return to normal – or even to transition to a “new” normal.
At the beginning of this phase, workers get accustomed to working from home. New routines are established. Productivity increases. A sense of normalcy begins to set in. This doesn’t mean that challenges don’t exist — however, businesses and leaders now have the capacity to begin to address these challenges in a proactive rather than a reactive way.
In the NGO or missions world, this is when organizations begin to work with the victims of a crisis to bring stability to their situation. In the B2B and sales and marketing world, this should be the approach as well. The goal is to work with businesses and organizations to help them try to return to a pre-crisis state of productivity. The need is to partner with organizations and help them identify challenges and needs they have, and design and deliver solutions to help them as they continue the journey of returning to “business as usual.”
After the Rehabilitation Phase, the Development Phase begins. In the NGO world, this phase involves equipping and empowering individuals so that they are able to grow and provide for themselves and their families. Ideally, after this phase, the NGO or missions organization is no longer relied upon.
This is where the model shifts in the business world. In this case, the Development phase includes a shift in focus for businesses. Now that businesses have reached the point where it is business as usual, the focus needs to be on prevention and growth.
Businesses need to focus on preventing such severe crises in the future. Smart leaders need to spend their time eliminating single points of failure and developing crisis plans. Processes should be identified and refined. Automation should be implemented where possible. The possibility exists for the second wave of COVID-19, and this is the phase where businesses should be focused on mitigating the risks, downtime, and disruption that another crisis could cause.
Written by Greg Whitus