Opinion: How to attempt “business as usual” in a pandemic

Galvanize CEO Laurie Schultz gives her tips on staying the course in the wake of COVID-19.

Credit:  Tanya Goehring

Galvanize CEO Laurie Schultz gives her tips on staying the course in the wake of COVID-19

These are turbulent times for businesses, and with Canada facing a historic economic downturn, there are no companies that won’t feel the impact of COVID-19. So how can we effectively drive decision-making in a completely foreign landscape? While there’s no easy answer, here are a number of steps that have helped our company to navigate the pandemic so far.

Use preparations made during the good times

Ensure your business has a strong continuity plan and risk management practice in place. All businesses face risk, and the best thing you can do is prepare for it when it seems like nothing could go wrong.

Set up your business in a way to weather storms. This is easier for some organizations than others, and technology companies with recurring revenues have added relevancy and durability during these times, providing them the stability to act carefully and confidently in crisis. That said, there are changes that can be made to any business to add that “cushion” to your operating line.

If you can, create your work systems to be remote-friendly, even if your team is usually co-located. By using cloud-based systems and equipping all employees with laptops for years, we were quickly able to follow physical distancing best practices by moving our entire workforce to remote in a day. The benefits of this flexibility will be yours to keep when things return to normal.

Lean on your culture and values

Building a culture that gives your employees purpose in their work—a reason to show up and work through the tough times—means you are going to be able to push through those most important initiatives in the face of upheaval.

Acting consistently with your values during times of crisis speaks more strongly to how those values truly are the “core” of your business than if you live them during times of ease. This is the time your employees will remember if you “walked the walk,” or if you were always just “talking the talk.”

At Galvanize, our culture and in particular the rallying cry created around our Vision—to be the operating system of conscious organizations—and our Values (authenticity, embracing ambiguity, customer intensity) give us resiliency as they connect and bond us together in cause and behaviour.

Put your employees first

Do everything you can to protect employees and their livelihoods. As leaders, we owe it to our teams to run our business responsibly and conscientiously. This might mean you have to make the hard decision to pull back some short-term discretionary spending, but make it clear that this is happening so that people keep their jobs.

Executives must step up to make these sacrifices first, deferring bonuses, vacation, or other incentives to ensure that their teams are cared for.

Pivot to create value

Look at what you do as a business and where you can make a positive impact on your customers and the world in this specific situation.

As an example, at Galvanize, we are lucky to have some of the smartest risk management professionals, product visionaries, and software developers in the world on our team. We quickly assembled a crack team internally to create a free COVID-19 Toolkit for our customers so they didn’t need to start from scratch in developing their responses to the crisis. I use the tools we created to ensure that our company is running as efficiently and smoothly as possible. Our teams of customer success professionals are providing free consulting time to our customers to make sure they can do the same.

Finally, let’s remember that we’re all navigating this for the first time together. It’s important to lean on your community, ask for advice, and share any bits of wisdom you have, so that we can all come out of this stronger. To help facilitate conversations among the business community, Galvanize has compiled a number of resources on how to manage the COVID-19 crisis on our website, including links to on-demand and upcoming webinars. 

Laurie Schultz is CEO of Galvanize, a global leader in SaaS governance, risk and compliance (GRC) software.