It is unfathomable what is happening in the world with this virus. No company will be immune to the aftershocks of this pandemic, whether the virus affects your employees’ health and safety, or the economic crisis causes you to lose many of your clients. 

In either case, your company is likely facing hardship, and no matter how well you were doing before, tough decisions are coming your way. As the leader of the company, you will be tested, and your true colors will come out. Your team will look up to you for guidance and encouragement, and it is at this time that you need to shine. 

So, as a CEO, what do you do? 

 First, you need to understand the reality of how your company culture is structured and who is first for you. This is essential to any good business model, and I encourage you to look at your actions and consider this now if you haven’t before. Who is “first” in your company?   

 It should be clear in your mind if either your employees, your clients, or your shareholders are first in your view as a leader. This will allow you to make decisions and know how those decisions will impact each group. For example: 

  1.  If your employees are first, then you have an obligation to their security, even at the possible sacrifice of the customers or shareholders.  This means keeping the majority of them employed and making changes to your organization so that they can work safely, even if you lose profits. By protecting your employees until the economy stabilizes, you will create a loyal team to help you quickly rebuild and gain back clients and profitability.  
  2. If your clients are first, then your obligation is to help them survive the crisis at the possible sacrifice of your employees or shareholders. This means aiding them any way that you can. You’ll need to bring your employees to work, even at a slight risk to their health, to ensure that your customers survive the storm. You’ll also need to give them products or services for free or at discounted prices. You’re protecting the clients so that once the economy stabilizes, you can rebuild with your client-base still firmly intact. 
  3. If your shareholders are first, as is the case with many publicly traded companies, then you have an obligation to protect your profit margin, even at the possible sacrifice of your employees or customers. This means you’ll need to cut costs. You’ll need to lay off your employees or cut their hours to saves on wage costs. You’ll need to charge your customers more for products that they need if you have that ability. You’re protecting the money of the company so that once the economy stabilizes, you can rebuild, hire people back, and lower your prices to gain market share.  

 Consider these questions:
Do you know how your company is organized? 
Are you acting accordingly?
Are your truthful to the people you are leading about what is important? 

Once you establish what is more important to you, your communication must match. If you are employee-first, you should include them in your discussions and be forthright and honest. If you are customer-first, you must do the work to keep your clients aware of what your company is doing for them. If you are shareholder-first, you must communicate how you will be retaining your profitability. 
Clarity and consistency are important so that you can continue to lead and survive the crisis while preparing for how you will rebuild.  

 No matter how your organization is built, if you know who is first, second, and third, and you act consistently to prove it, there’s a good chance the company will weather the storm and will rebuild on the other side. 

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