Nobody was prepared for a pandemic. In fact, Bill Gates gave a TED Talk back in 2015 warning us that “we’re not ready for the next pandemic.” Now looking back, it’s clear that Bill was right. We were not ready at all. The impact of COVID-19 will have a lasting effect on society. However, it doesn’t have to be all negative. Humans learn from mistakes and adapt. The basis of learning is to fail first, and many businesses have had to endure such failures so that they can learn to pivot and succeed.
Everybody has had to learn new things during COVID-19. New ways to live, learn, make money and survive in general. For me, as a co-founder of Finder, COVID-19 has taught me so much about business – and myself – that I didn’t know before. It showed me how quickly everything can get flipped on its head without warning, and it taught me to not fear that change, but adapt and evolve to survive.
There are three teachings that came out of COVID-19 for me. The first is that listening to customers is key. The pandemic has changed customer behaviour, and understanding that is of paramount importance. The second is to be prepared to pivot, to take a leap of faith to capitalise on unique opportunities. And the third lesson is to be there for your crew.
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1. Listen to your customers
Customer behavior has changed dramatically across all markets since the pandemic started. Its impact on consumers was noticed immediately, for instance, when people started panic buying toilet paper, vegetables and other essentials.
Customers started to have different expectations. I noticed businesses not being able to keep up with demands for certain things like face masks, and even Google couldn’t stay up to date with changes about business information online. I also noticed how the information people were trying to find online started shifting. This led to Finder creating information hubs about the pandemic. We created a process to verify sellers of products and pivoted our business to a money management app (launched in Australia in March and soon to launch in the US and UK in early 2021).
2. Be ready to pivot
You might think it would be better to play it safe in volatility and not take the risk of introducing new products or services. However, COVID-19 has presented massive opportunities for any type of company – you just need to have the courage to take the leap and pivot.
One of the biggest things I’ve learnt is to take every opportunity you see. There is always noise out there, competition with other companies and new customers to find. A global pandemic is a different kind of noise that you need to break through. Don’t let it distract you from your business goals and your mission to serve your customers.
3. Be there for your crew
There was so much uncertainty at the start of the pandemic. Many of our crew were anxious about the future and uncomfortable by all the change. It was clear that we needed a plan and we needed to communicate it to the team immediately. We closed our offices in March, and while we already had around 20% of our workforce working remotely all over the world, we were faced with new challenges and opened up new lines of communication. We set up weekly company all-hands meetings, new Slack groups and regular team email updates. We set up free virtual yoga and HIIT classes and a resource hub that provided material and information about emotional and mental wellbeing.
We were empowered by our “1 Crew” core value. The happiness and wellbeing of our crew is always top priority and it was key to ensure that everyone was okay and that we could continue functioning. When a pandemic hits and everyone is forced to go home, what is a business made up of without its people? People are at the core of business.
So Bill Gates was right. We weren’t ready for this pandemic, not even close. And we probably won’t be ready for the next one. But we will never forget what we’ve learnt this time around, and hopefully, we’ll be a little more prepared to stop and listen, to act fast and to support those around us.