From the outset, I’ve recommended that we all get our health news from qualified experts, not politicians or TV news pundits. A global pandemic is serious, even though the rate of recovery from this virus strain is high. The worst outcomes for the most vulnerable populations are around 15 percent, meaning that 85 percent of those affected in the worst possible way are surviving. Use the resources of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Frederick County Health Department as your trusted sources of COVID-19 information.
That said, we just don’t know enough about the spread of COVID-19 to diminish our concern or risk accelerating the reach of this virus. So our national, state and local elected leaders are doing their best to try to mandate controls over human movement in order to flatten out the curve of “community spread.”
It’s a scary time, a situation where a lack of knowledge creates a vacuum, and fear and ignorance will always fill a vacuum of truth.
Instead of focusing on the things we have no control over, my hope is that the Frederick County business community sees this for what it offers us, not what it denies us.
My guiding principle in situations like this is to focus on where we’ll be after the incident is resolved. Even in the worst-case scenario we’ve heard described, the duration of this event will likely be measured in weeks or months, not years.
What will you learn about yourself, your customers, your services and your workplace during this time when we sell less, make less and produce less than we normally do?
Here at the chamber, for example, we’ll be analyzing all of our services and programs to see what changes we can make to our processes to take better advantage of online resources. Can we substitute in-person meetings with high-quality digital content? Can we reach folks at their service counter more effectively than we can teach them by coming to the chamber office? Are there outdated, less-effective programs that need retirement/replacement with more current messaging?
If we’re not using this time of confusion and fear to instead focus on our core business, our essential personnel and the needs/demands of our customers (in this case current and prospective chamber members), then all we’ve accomplished is to cower in fear of a thing we don’t understand and cannot control.
That, my friends, is not leadership. In fact, that is the total absence of leadership.
So while hoarders buy up toilet paper, I’m hoping my friends in the private, public and nonprofit sectors use this “forced pause” to strategically examine who they serve, and how best to serve them. A restaurant might take this time to ensure that online ordering and carryout or delivery services are operating at peak efficiency. Health clubs, hotels, and health facilities can update internal cleaning/sanitizing processes that reflect the latest and safest products and practices. Auto repair shops can focus on vehicle exchange processes that minimize human interactions between customer and technicians while emphasizing the transfer of necessary information. Almost every single business can take some time to assess/reassess our outward-facing brand, making sure that we’re communicating the most important messages in the most impactful manner.
No matter the line of work, all of us can turn our attention to our internal processes and practices, to shift from fear to focus.
Once we do that, then the next step is to communicate. Our internal process improvements can then be used to boost the confidence of our current and prospective customers by strategically communicating those changes. That means that you get to use your strategic efforts to strengthen your core business to build your customer base, turning a negative into a true business marketing strategy.
By their nature, leaders are resourceful, creative, persistent and resilient. Here in Frederick County, those leadership characteristics are demonstrated in the halls of government, the offices of our nonprofits, and in businesses large and small. Let’s use this time to get better and to prepare for the inevitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.