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How can businesses navigate the new not-normal?

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Companies that are still having trouble adjusting to the topsy-turvy economic environment created by the COVID-19 pandemic need to consider eight steps in finding their way to stable footing.

That’s according to Chris Kampitsis, a financial planner, financial services executive and investment adviser representative with The SKG Team at Barnum Financial Group in Elmsford.

Videoconferencing has become a new part of the daily corporate routine in today’s COVID-19 business world. Photo by Steve Banfield / Creative Commons.

The first step that Kampitsis detailed in a recent webinar presentation involved companies that have yet to receive federal assistance through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and are not exploring alternative funding sources.

“Let’s say the PPP doesn’t go through for you, or you’re not able to qualify for some of these government programs,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a line of credit. If you don’t have a line of credit or you’re concerned that your line of credit isn’t large enough, now is the right time to deepen and enhance your relationship with your local banker. You’d be surprised how many companies don’t take advantage of this.”

In weighing this strategy, Kampitsis recommended identifying how much cash the company has on hand and “modeling multiple projections based on how long the economic impacts of the pandemic may last, using lowered profit and loss and lower revenues. By having very specific targets and timelines, you’re going to feel a little bit less stressed, and you will feel a little bit more proactive about confronting the situation.”

The second step advocated by Kampitsis was increasing the company’s social media presence with timely messaging.

“One way that you want to do that is by sharing third-person stories about how you’re helping other clients and customers during this time, in ways that people can relate to and potentially identify with,” he said. “For example, a personal organization business might discuss how they’re using Zoom to coach a client through the decluttering of a kitchen or a closet, or a law firm might talk about how they’re using Zoom to help clients update their wills and documents.”

Kampitsis suggested asking the company’s social media connections and clients for online feedback, noting that while “they may not take any action now, they will remember you later.”

The third step involved adapting the company’s marketing tone to the ongoing crisis.

“It’s important that you don’t ignore everything that’s happening right around us,” Kampitsis warned. “It’s not business as usual. But it’s really important that you don’t come across as trying to capitalize on what’s happening around us, either.”

He added that “millennials, in particular, want to work with a private enterprise that is also in the business of doing public good. So, now’s the time to craft your message.”

But Kampitsis also recommended “honest and genuine posts” on social media that give thanks and recognize positive contributions, but not overplaying the altruism angle to make it look like the shameless blowing of one’s horn.

Next on Kampitsis’ list was shifting the company’s target market to meet the current environment.

“If your product or service is not generating revenue right now, it’s not particularly relevant to the current crisis,” he said. “Take your best people and brainstorm. Now may be the right time to at least consider adding a line or service that might generate an additional layer of revenues.”

As an example, Kampitsis cited a company that hosted corporate scavenger hunts, which are now off limits as per government edicts. The company responded to the loss of revenue by developing an internet version of the activity and expanding it to a consumer audience.

“Now, people, families, employees of companies and associations are gathering on a platform like Zoom and then they have to go around the internet,” he said. “They have teams competing against each other to find the scavenger hunt items. If you’re a business to consumer entity, maybe there’s an opportunity to go B2B — don’t roll over and accept what’s happening. Now’s the time to get creative.”

The fifth step Kampitsis cited was maintaining the corporate culture to guarantee everyone was on the same page.

“If you’re not having a daily huddle on a platform like teams or Zoom, you should try to do a morning check-in,” he said. “And make sure either you or your key managers are checking in with their daily reports and just asking them how they’re doing. Don’t expect your people to be on camera all day — respect their boundaries.”

Kampitsis noted that his firm hosts a virtual happy hour every Friday and has added a musical component.

“Musicians are looking for work and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. is a great time on a Friday for them to work on our team,” he said. “This week we did a virtual yoga session. And think about sending a small care package to some of your employees — maybe a $5 Amazon video rental, a $10 to $20 GrubHub gift card. I know the budgets aren’t unlimited here, but there are some ways to really keep people motivated and could be the most valuable thing that you do.”

Also on Kampitsis’ list was the importance of retaining the company’s best people while ensuring they don’t burn out or get recruited by another firm.

“It is definitely more difficult, though not impossible, to train new talent during this period of time,” he said. “You want to keep your core employees as engaged and motivated as possible.”

To keep staff in place, Kampitsis offered the possibility of paying for employees to pursue online course certificate or even a graduate degree, making sure that there is a written agreement that this generous bonus would require “a certain amount of years of additional service.”

Another idea that Kampitsis put forth was allowing employees to move into new duties.

“Now is an amazing time to let some of your key people take on a responsibility that you always suspected they were capable of,” he said. “Maybe you never were ready to give them the keys to the car or you really want to see if someone has the ability to step up. Now is a good time to try to take those chances.”

The final step being offered was hosting webinars for clients and prospects, with Kampitsis pointing out how The Barnum Group is taking that strategy to present discussions related to finance.

“There are also health and wellness programs and speakers that are looking for an audience and that add intrinsic value to your team,” he said. “So, take advantage of offering webinars and filling employees calendars throughout the week — they remember that they’re connected and they’re a part of something.”

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