What do Walt Disney, Rambo, and two hit TV shows have to do with tackling the challenges posed by the Coronavirus? Check out this post by Rental Beast founder and CEO Ishay Grinberg on how businesses can adapt and come out of COVID-19 stronger.
Pivoting from “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” to “Survivor – Corona Island:”
In TV lingo, that’s the transition most businesses experienced over the past three painstaking weeks. Early on we all had 2020 goals-most of them ambitious, given that the economy was humming along nicely. Rental Beast anticipated another year of growth—on all fronts.
The universe had other plans.
To determine my company’s next moves I read countless articles and studies and spoke with seasoned business leaders, investors, and advisors who’ve weathered earlier down cycles and survived their fair share of volatility. While each offered a unique perspective and counsel on how to proceed, an underlying theme emerged: This event is unique, and while many companies and their leaders know what they need to do, no one really knows what is going to happen next.
What does that mean for our industry? What are the most important actions we can take to protect what we’ve already built, keep everyone safe, and prepare for the unknown?
Here are my seven biggest takeaways:
1) Safety First
The health threat COVID-19 poses is very serious. It’s likely you are either directly impacted or one step removed from someone who is sick, even critically ill, or working on the front lines as a caregiver or first responder. Worse yet, you may come to know someone who has passed as a result of this terrible disease.
Finding the operational balance of keeping up productivity while working from home amidst kids, roommates, family or isolation is a challenge we have to take on. This experience will change the way we think about working from home. It’s not for everybody, but right now everyone has to find ways to stay productive while working at home.
2) Cash is King
Perhaps obvious to us today, focusing on tactics and on minimizing cost requires a hard look and decisive action, a paradigm shift from three weeks ago, when we were playing “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” A drastic and sudden shift in strategy will likely lead to difficult conversations with vendors, landlords, and employees. Today, we’re all playing a new game: “Survivor – Corona Island,” with challenges and survival tactics that would otherwise seem crazy. We’re fishing with sticks and skinning an animal (sorry, Vegans but trying to make a dramatic point!) are all is fair play. You can’t un-spend money, and in an environment where we need be especially strategic with scan resources, we must beef up balance sheets and cut costs to make it off the island.
3) Find your Toilet Paper
Every good company has that one service, item, or product that sets them apart. That differentiated asset is likely the best thing to focus and invest in right now. While most companies can’t—or shouldn’t—invest in sales and marketing right now, unless they’re literally selling toilet paper, hand sanitizers or protective equipment. If your most important asset was valuable three weeks, focus attention on how you can make it better, bigger, or more efficient in the coming weeks and months. Focusing on your most valuable asset “Toilet Paper” above all else (albeit cost efficiently) is likely the best way to increase shareholder value right now. What if you don’t have “toilet paper” you ask? Well, then you’re likely in deep S#$! And if you don’t know what your company’s “toilet paper” is, then your first step is figuring it out.
4) Virtual Showing
We’ve observed many businesses moving many of their operations online with remarkable speed, especially within the real estate industry. Facilitating business virtually is a worthwhile effort that will pay dividends long after this crisis passes. Prior to Coronavirus, consumers, both young and old, were increasing inclined to take care of their business online. Some industries have been reluctant to adapt, but will now be forced to go virtual or perish.
This is especially true for the real estate industry—have you been to a closing recently? You’ll get tennis elbow from the amount of papers you need to sign to complete a transaction! Real Estate must move towards a contact-free mode of doing business. As the founder and CEO of Rental Beast and as players in the residential rental sphere, we’ve quickly moved to facilitate virtual showings and equip our clients with the tools needed to close rentals online, soup to nuts from virtual showings, online applications, digital rent payments and the ability to a lease online as we have collected the required documentation on many of the properties in our database.
My point is, invest in virtual.
Every other email I get has “COVID-19” in the subject line, and lots of us are quickly losing patience for the continuous speculation on what may or may not happen. Instead of jumping on this ambiguous bandwagon, now is an ideal time to polish your content strategy and provide your sphere or your Tribe (thanks, Tom Ferry!) with actionable intelligence, supported by real data and reporting. With things changing so fast, accurate, scalable data and content is more valuable now than ever.
For example, every asset class is going through violent valuation swings. In the stock market, public companies with decades of financial history can see their value reduced and increased by double digits during a single trading day. This is happening in more opaque asset classes as well.
I’m watching rental and home prices, concessions, defaults, demand, and closings, evaluating how these major factors could use a reliable data source. In response, Rental Beast is strategically using our proprietary database of millions of properties to provide our own industry, arming them with the information needed to make smarter decisions, all the while generating longer-term interest in our data services products.
6) What If
Walt Disney said “If you can dream it, you can do it!” I was recently fortunate to hear Duncan Wardle speak about the creative process, and how he successfully led change at the Imagineering Department at Disney for many years so, I wanted to give credit to this idea where its due.
As business leaders are forced to take a pause on original plans, this is a great time to ask some big “What If?” questions that may allow us the freedom to fundamentally change the way we do things. Our product, service, operations, and generally the way we conducted ourselves before Corona Island. I believe this is a great time to ask that question both personally and professionally as priorities have shifted. A personal example, last week I sent almost everyone in my phone book (1000’s of people) a short personal text to see how they are doing. I said to myself, What If I take this time of total isolation to broaden and deepen my connections and to strengthen or rebuild relationships with people that in some case I haven’t spoken to in years? This ignited so many interesting conversations and I would highly recommend it!
Return to our original theme of playing Survivor, agility and adaptability is king. No matter what you do, at some point pain is going to settle in. Accept it, attack it and make the necessary moves quickly. This is not a game, it’s not fun, and not for the faint of heart! But if you do what it takes to make it off the island, opportunities will abound and you and your company will be in a stronger position to grab them.
Imagine Rambo on a Survivor episode. It’s not even a fair fight—we all know he would crush it! Here on Corona Island we must follow his example, tighten that cloth around our forehead, put some mud on our face and be that guy, be that business!
Hope you find this helpful and would love to hear your thoughts.
Stay safe and healthy!
About Ishay: Ishay Grinberg is the founder and CEO of Rental Beast. Born in Haifa, Israel, Grinberg spend 20 years as a real estate agent and broker in New York and Boston before starting Rental Beast.