Turns Out COVID-19 Has a Playbook: How to Win in Business, Even in Crisis

By Craig Wiley

With certainty, COVID-19 has produced a wealth of information. Because of its breadth of impact, it has reinforced the power of unified purpose, highlighted the value of exceptional leadership, showed the resiliency of hope, and displayed the impact of collective action. Like the Wizard of Oz letting us peek behind the curtain, the playbook for how to take intentional control of our company legacy is on full display. However, this isn’t new. For years, the most influential businesses have achieved what others could not, guided by this playbook. No matter the situation or crisis, those who choose to act with clarity, passion, generosity, empathy, courage, and innovation will see their story marked by success.

The Playbook: During Challenge and Prosperity

Following this tried and true playbook will provide you a solid foundation to rely on, help you navigate the ups and downs of business, and allow you to make intentional and purposeful actions toward transforming your business.


Collect and distill relevant data to make your best strategic decisions through analysis of critical data points.
By synthesizing both quantitative and qualitative data relevant to your business, you will have a clearer view of what your focus should be moving forward. We recommend starting with an analysis of the three critical areas of business transformation: Visionary Leadership, Organizational Agility, and Integrated Talent Management.

It is essential to gather insights from a wide variety of voices to gain an honest assessment of your overall business health. Survey and interview key stakeholders and influencers, including leaders, individual contributors, customers, and/or board members.

Gather insights based on the most critical KPIs to understand current performance and project future performance of your business. Resist the urge to create a mile-long list of measurables. Focus in on those that have the biggest impact on the business. Some examples are revenue, products, NPS, sales, accounting, marketing, services and support, and MRR growth.


Establish a team dedicated to developing your strategic plan.
Gather your most trusted leaders, executive team, and other business influencers to communicate and inspire a vision for the road ahead. Provide them with context as to why setting strategy as a collaborative unit is so essential to the future of your business.


With your dedicated team, collaboratively define your mission, vision, values.
Having defined mission, vision, and values and using them as the foundation for making decisions within the company has profound benefits. Among the most impactful, this trifecta drives loyalty, fosters customer engagement, improves strategic alignment across business units and teams, brings clarity to decision-making, and inspires passion. In addition, one of the biggest drivers for top performers to choose to work for you is connecting with your company’s purpose.



Why do you exist? 

What is your greatest purpose?

This is not necessarily what you do or what you are good at but rather what you are put on this earth to do.



When your relationships, talent, products, and systems are fully optimized, what will success look and feel like?

These should be BHAG type of statements and could project five, 10, 15, or 50 years into the future.


How do you want to behave on your way to success? What belief systems will guide your way?

Values are the collective mindsets and behaviors for how to act internal and external to your business and should govern your decision-making.


Collectively create a Business Innovation Strategy.
The next step in your strategic planning process is determining your short- and long-term goals. Besides the day-to-day functions of the organization, where will your organization spend its energy to reach your vision?

Perform a SWOT for each area of the business (e.g., core processes, talent, customer experience, products/services, systems and technology, etc.).

From your SWOT Analysis identify two to three significant business innovations with clear goals, actions, and deliverables.

  • What internal strengths can you capitalize on and what weaknesses can you counteract?
  • What external opportunities are you primed to take advantage of, and which threats do you need to monitor?
  • Real-time Strategy Adjustment: In times of crisis

Construct a 4-6-week runway for these initiatives. Identify the leader and team to sponsor each key crisis initiative and have a daily update meeting to report on progress and hurdles.

The instincts to protect capital, reduce debt, plan for one-time furloughs/layoffs, and increase revenue opportunities are wise and just. However, there is a risk of spending too much time, energy, and focus on these areas.

As soon as possible, move beyond survival mode and into business accelerators and business model optimization, as outlined above.


Prepare an execution plan for each business innovation initiative.
Almost 70% of great strategy fails. Why? Because we often stop at strategy creation (the fun stuff) and do not sketch out the execution roadmap to get there.

Use the following questions to create your execution roadmap.

  • What is our definition of success when this area of the business is fully realized?
  • What roadblocks will need to be overcome?
  • What are the critical KPIs to evaluate our success?
  • What are the chronological actions, owners, resources, and timeline to achieve our definition of success?
  • Who is the leader accountable to and the team responsible for executing this initiative?
  • What is the plan for this team to successfully collaborate on this initiative?
  • What is the plan for this team to report on progress of this initiative to ensure visibility and support?


Prepare a communication and implementation plan.
Clear, authentic, unifying communication is a leader’s greatest ally anytime, but especially in times of challenge. When stakeholders revert to a place of individualism and protectionism, your ability to be proactive is key to your collective success.

For each key stakeholder group (workforce, customers, suppliers, investors, etc.), create transparent messages addressing the following questions:

  • Why is the strategic plan important for the business?
  • Why is the strategic plan important for the stakeholder group you are addressing?
  • How will the strategic plan address current challenges and strengthen the business for the future?

Identify how you use your mission, vision, and values to unify and provide purpose for your organization. Each chapter in your story provides you the opportunity to create brand ambassadors who will extend loyalty beyond any crisis. Rallying behind a shared vision and beliefs and honoring them will be how you are remembered.

Determine how you and your leaders demonstrate, recognize, and reinforce your mission, vision and values inside and outside the company. Think of all your stakeholder groups: employees, customers, vendors, suppliers, shareholders, investors, partners.

So, it turns out there has always been a playbook for your success in a time of crisis. The most successful leaders and businesses have been and always will be those who choose purpose, intentionality, strong values, a people-first mentality, and resiliency. History is not your destiny. External circumstances do not decide your legacy. By acting upon this playbook, you and your teams will emerge better together.

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Craig Wiley's profile picture.

Craig Wiley

CEO of Transcend

As the CEO and founder of Transcend, I’ve had the privilege of helping to transform thousands of C-Suite leaders and their businesses over the span of two decades. As an executive coaching expert and business strategy thought leader, I’m passionate about driving continual innovation through our proven suite of nine solutions to support the advancement of modern leadership.

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