2020 forced introspection on a global scale, and not just individually — businesses everywhere had to assess and adapt as best as they could to weather a storm of uncertainty and unrest. At Sparxoo, everyone from our CEO and president to our most recently hired creatives and developers joined the brainstorm not only on how to do business in a strategically progressive way, but also and most importantly, how to operate progressively by putting people first.
If your business goals for 2021 include advancing progressive policies in your organization, read on for examples of how you can approach these important changes.
Initiative One: Care for Your Customers
To set yourself up for success during times of growth or hardship, taking care of your customers has to be your number one priority. When your customer experience is top-notch, customers are willing to pay more — and your investment in that experience can lead to a $1 billion revenue increase. The customer experience here can include support, product interaction — really anything that the customer perceives as your company’s treatment of them.
This makes sense, especially when you consider how much business interactions became personal over the course of 2020. If you approached a virtual sales call without patience and understanding for surprise guests or spotty WiFi, you were missing an opportunity to really connect with the person on the other end of the webcam. And since increased time at home led to increased feelings of isolation for many, a kind word or sincere inquiry into how someone was doing could make all the difference, and create a connection — both personal, and business — for life.
At Sparxoo, we were able to serve customers in a way that was flexible and understanding of new and changing situations. We shifted to a more project-to-project work stream to allow for the unknowns facing our clientele. We continued with white-glove service, and used any extra time our teams had to read up-and-coming thought leadership, brainstorm additional offerings, and look for even more ways to help our partners succeed. We were able to retain nearly 70% of our clients from March through the rest of the year, and gained new long-term clients in the process.
Initiative Two: Put Your People First
Some companies approach economic downturns by ruthlessly reducing headcount. While this may seem like a money-saving idea in the short-term, in the long run, you’re likely losing a lot more than money. According to the Harvard Business Review, companies that rely solely on cutting their workforce to survive an economic recession have only an 11% probability of achieving breakaway performance after the downturn ends.
If your employees are constantly looking over their shoulders, worried they might lose their jobs, their stress will increase, and they may start to look for opportunities elsewhere and try to cut their losses before they get cut. In the future, you may also struggle to hire talent back into your business — many potential candidates now make sure to ask how companies took care of their employees during hard times when they make their decisions on where to work.
Caring for your employees means more than simply not letting them go during periods of slow business. It’s also about making sure they are taken care of as individuals. For a long time in this country, many people have not been able to enjoy equal employment opportunities — or even equal protection under the law. 2020’s massive protests against police brutality towards black people were a stark reminder that America is still not a country where everyone enjoys equal protections and rights. So if you are looking to make a mark as a progressive company, progressive policies should follow. At Sparxoo, we have started to take steps towards implementing such policies by doing things like forming an internal change committee to recommend permanent, consistent actions we can take as a business to promote equality and equity of opportunity. We are also recognizing Juneteenth as an official company holiday as the historic movement for freedom and liberation is well-aligned with our mission, vision and values.
There is much work to be done to improve policies and processes that will make companies progressive. By thinking about the people who come to work for you daily, and prioritizing their growth and wellbeing, you’re investing in the backbone of your company and its successful future.
Initiative Three: Hunker Down
While putting people first during difficult times is critical, we’re also not advocating for Pollyannaism here. The reality is that during recessions and economic crises, it is important to get lean and hunker down. One way to do this is by reviewing business expenses, and being honest about the true necessities.
At Sparxoo, for example, we were able to cut office expenses when we went remote in 2020. Because the pandemic forced many doors to close and non-essential businesses to go virtual, removing these costs made good business sense. Additionally, we streamlined our software expenses, getting rid of paid accounts for duplicate software or applications that weren’t true necessities.
Many progressive businesses also tend to flatten their organizational structure during times of economic distress, opting to stretch leadership responsibilities, and outsourcing specific roles, functions, and admin duties. Depending on your business, this can really help your team whittle down to your revenue generators, and focus on what you’re in business to do. In fact, this can open up savings that you can then funnel into investments in your team where revenue gets generated.
Initiative Four: Invest Ahead
In the middle of an economic downturn, it may feel impossible to plan ahead. But once you have your here-and-now game plan in place, it’s important that you stay ahead of the curve and plan for what’s to come. Part of that involves tracking what works now. In the case of lessons from 2020, perhaps your team has realized you’re just as — if not more — productive working from home than in the office. A permanent move to remote work might be in your company’s future, meaning you can start to think about what hiring will look like when you open the candidate pool nationally, or even globally.
You should also look around to see if new opportunities have emerged amidst the uncertainty and instability of a recession period. If you’re in the B2B industry, changing priorities for your clients may lead to new products or services you can offer. In 2021, Sparxoo will be introducing a new business based on the types of high-level leadership and networking support many companies are now seeking in advisory roles. By staying in tune with your customers’ needs, keeping your talent focused and cared for, and cutting costs where it makes sense, you open yourself up to a clearer vision into the future — and allow yourself to pave the way.
Perhaps the biggest lesson of the last year is that nothing in life is promised. This is why we truly believe that a people-first, innovative, and genuine approach to business is the best way to be.