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To say I have been here before would be a misstatement, because regardless of whether you lived professionally through 9/11 or the economic crisis of 2008, COVID-19 is different. Never have I felt the sense of isolation and desperation that have come from employees adversely affected by this pandemic. Equal to their pain are the employers who have shared feelings of hopelessness and despair. As I check in with my partners, prospects and those I am working to help the resounding message is one of insecurity and a foreboding of what is yet to come. Questions like, “Will I ever find a job?” or “Will my business survive?” are real questions and real concerns for all those I have engaged with over the course of the last two and half months. Having lived through past catastrophic events, I can say with certainty that this IS different and has challenged my ability to stay the positive person I am. So how does a business move forward? What can be done?
Keeping in mind, I opened a consulting firm 3 weeks before a pandemic, I am acutely aware of how challenging this time is for all business owners and those they employ. What I needed to do was throw away my business plan and get creative. Considering what actions to adopt to create some semblance of a forward-looking process didn’t come easy. I needed to listen to a bit of the emotional side of my persona and remove myself and any selfish thoughts from the equation. I believe that EGO is “Easing Greatness Out” and now more than ever, we must remove ourselves from the picture and focus on how we support one another. Not an easy thing when your business or livelihood feels under attack.
While I carried some lessons learned from 9/11 and the financial crisis of 2008, I really needed to pave a new path, because this is a new enemy and a new situation. What I want to do is give back by providing tips or insights that can help you emerge from this pandemic with a clear go-forward strategy and reinforce your relationships beyond today. I can say with confidence that these actions are working for my business, I know they can work for yours.
Supporting your customers doesn’t mean owning their problems, it means finding a way to be a part of their solution. It means authentically approaching them with kindness, compassion, and absorbing this time as an opportunity to truly be a part of your customers’ future.
With that, I have put together a list of actions you can take to be apart of your client’s future success:
- Look for ways to be a consultant and inform: Stay engaged in the latest news and share it with your customers. Can you help with WFH work advice or provide resources for productivity at home?
- Ask your customers how they are doing? Sometimes it’s as simple as that. Now is the time to become an expert listener and truly understand what your customers are going through. Often it’s not the solutions you bring to the table, but your ability to enable your customers to feel safe in sharing their thoughts and feelings.
- Be a part of their solution: If you run an agency and your customers are laying off talent, offer to partner with them for outplacement services. This is a fantastic way to remove some of the burdens of emotional layoffs and ensure that your customers’ employees are well provided for in future opportunities.
- Take this time to be visible: Now is the time to show your customers you care by being present. You can provide training support during this time to their staff through a ZOOM meeting. It can provide best practices for technology, occupational guidance, or other training opportunities. Get creative and think of how you can use this time to better inform your customers and their teams on your offerings.
- Understand that now is not the time to go for the “hard sell”: Utilize this time to inform, not sell. More than any other post on LinkedIn, you see executives making clear declarations of their distaste for those choosing the “hard sell” mentality during this time. Now is the time to educate, inform, and plan for the future.
- Find ways to support their passions or causes: Can you work with your customers to remotely make masks? Are there local causes you are both equally passionate about? How can you give back together? Understand what your customers might be passionate about and if it’s appropriate, see how you can support one another.
- Look for ways to plan for the future together: Help your customers see the future. It’s an emotional time and often the simple action of planning for the future can ease the pain of the current situation. Perhaps a strategy session, technical roadmap, operational improvements, calendaring your reviews, meetings, and future events.
- Prioritize inclusion: Include your customers in an online event, ask them to engage at one of your meetings to get their insights and share information. Look for ways to include and showcase their expertise. Even hosting a meeting with your management teams to introduce a customer, what they do, and how you support them is a great way to shine a light on all the great things your customers do.
- Host a Happy Hour with your customers and their team: Have fun. It’s not an easy time for ANYONE, but you have the opportunity to show your customers your gracious and fun spirit! I’ve seen theme T-Shirt Tuesday’s and Crazy Sock Wednesday’s all done online after-hours–simply enjoying the company of others. Use this as a time to truly be in the moment with your customers and understand who they are as people.
- Always be the source of positivity: This is harder than it sounds. We are all scared and worried about the future. But in this time, we need people who have the strength to be positive, kind, and who authentically look at this crisis as an opportunity to connect and grow.
Remember that during this time words and actions matter. Put your best foot forward and have the courage to support your customers in an authentic way that will benefit both of you in the future. Forward-thinking, speaking and supportive action will carry you far in developing long-lasting relationships beyond this pandemic and into a successful future as partners.
Looking for more COVID-19 resources and information for staffing and recruitment agencies? Go to the Bullhorn Resource hub to find the most up-to-date content, government guidance, data, and webinars to keep you informed and to help your staffing firm navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.