Three ways your business can adapt and thrive amid COVID-19


In the midst of a global pandemic, how can businesses adapt to thrive? BASE is running three webinars over the next six weeks to support businesses through this major change and gather their insights. Here we look at three key strategies that could help you navigate COVID-19.


On 12 March 2020, almost six weeks ago at the time of writing, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a pandemic. At the time, there were about 20,000 reported cases in Europe, and 1,000 deaths.

In the following days and weeks, the numbers increased rapidly, and governments around the world locked down; they closed schools, sent people home and put minimum physical distances in place. The goal was to ‘flatten the curve’ – to allow the Coronavirus to spread in a manageable way – and while the strategies appear to be making a difference, the side-effects have ravaged the economy.

Here in the Netherlands, all restaurants have been closed since the start of the ‘intelligent lockdown’, but many are still operating, giving people a night out at home. Many shops are still open, but limiting the number of customers allowed to enter. Stripes of tape on the floor mark out the distance you need to stand from the person in front of you in the queue; a plastic barrier and gloved hands protect the cashier while you pay for your items with a contactless wave of your card. Events – including the BASE Conference 2020 – have gone online.

Between the government measures to protect public health and the natural change in people’s behavior, businesses have been forced to adapt. It’s that ability to pivot, to observe the changes happening externally and adjust to them internally, that is helping some businesses thrive during this pandemic.

Yet this is a dynamic situation that is unfamiliar and unpredictable. Record numbers of people around the world are losing their jobs and applying for state support. Governments are rushing to organize support packages for small businesses and considering the bailout requests of multinationals.

While startups and scaleups may seem particularly vulnerable, many will be among the survivors, thanks to their agility, innovation and adaptability. The characteristics a business needs in order to thrive during and after the COVID-19 pandemic are not only vital in an unprecedented global emergency, they are the core traits that will help any business thrive in any situation.

It’s time to embrace change

So much has changed in the first few months of this year; if your business has remained the same, you are either in a very small minority, or you risk being left behind.

Success in business requires adaptability and agility, fast responses to external change and skill in spotting and keeping one step ahead of trends. This is especially the case for startups and scaleups. If big external change comes as a surprise and puts pressure on your business model, you have to adapt.

As humans, we are programmed to avoid change and stay away from dangerous situations; risk is not something we tend to welcome naturally. But doing nothing in a dynamic situation is a much riskier tactic.

Embracing change is not about being flighty or fickle; in fact, it requires solid structures, projections and plans. As a fledgling company, having a risk mitigation plan in place is essential – you should be monitoring all the potential trends and risks, including big changes that may lie ahead, and ensuring you’re ready to adapt to them.

If something does happen, recognize the situation in your predictions and take steps to adapt. It’s unlikely many saw COVID-19 coming, but many of the elements could have been covered in plans, from business continuity to cover working from home to business model adaptation to respond to changing consumer needs.


BASE co-founders Veronica Guguian and Lana Jelenjev didn’t see COVID-19 coming when they started planning this year’s BASE Conference, but by moving it online quickly, they are working to ensure startups and scaleups can still come together and grow, even at a time of social distancing.

Given the theme of the conference – humanizing business – this move is indicative of a wider need for technology that keeps people connected and pushing businesses forward during this crisis. “With the COVID-19 situation, we are globally entrusted to a space of chaos,” said Lana. “It is imperative that we look at solutions from different perspectives, lean into our network and connections for support and find ways in which we can contribute to others.”

Humanizing is an important element of business survival in times of chaos: ultimately, it is the people behind, within and around your business that will make it a success. Woven through the concept are three elements that together form a strong basis for future security, says Lana. “What I find as essential at this time is to approach businesses based on the three Cs: creativity, collaboration and contribution.”


Let’s look at the three Cs in action.

  1. Get creative

“This situation forces us to take a look at the resources we have and be creative in terms of how we use them so we can generate new opportunities and ensure businesses are not closing,” Veronica said.

There are many examples of businesses pivoting fast and applying buckets of creativity to thrive in this situation. For some, that means changing the delivery of the same product or service – think about the gyms that are moving their workouts online, the museums providing virtual tours and the opera houses streaming performances. Family experience company Kidadl, for example, has taken to the internet to share inspiration for lockdown activities.

For others, that means temporarily changing gears to support those in need. In the UK, the craft beer manufacturer Brewdog is producing hand sanitizer, which it is donating to the NHS. Car manufacturers around the world have adjusted their production lines to make ventilators instead of vehicles.

“Looking around us we see a lot of beautiful examples of how businesses are adapting and focusing on helping others,” Veronica said. “Only together can we move on and succeed.”


  1. Collaborate

‘Together’ is one of the key words of humanization; collaboration is at the heart of this approach to business. Business doesn’t have to be about fierce competition, even in the world of startups and scaleups.

Partnerships can be powerful, especially in a time of crisis. Joining forces can make you stronger, give you insights into new areas, help make you more creative and innovative, and bring you to new audiences.

One very public example of this is the collaboration that has flourished in vaccine research during – and due to – the pandemic. Pharma companies and academic institutions around the world are working together to develop an effective vaccine – something that has never been seen at this scale before. The result is impressive: several vaccines and treatments have already entered clinical trials.

At BASE, we value collaboration as one of our keys to success. By forging the right partnerships that benefit both sides and the wider community, we can be sure we are providing the greatest possible value. Because, in the end, it’s the contribution we make that matters.


  1. Make a meaningful contribution

You don’t have to be redesigning your manufacturing plants or hand sewing thousands of face masks to make a meaningful contribution in this time of crisis. In fact, it’s the small, local, personal contributions that make a real difference. Supporting your neighbor, helping the local food bank, promoting your favorite café that’s doing deliveries.

The same goes for business. Regardless of your turnover, your business will succeed by making a positive impact on individual people. Perhaps it’s your video calling software that lets first-time grandparents see their newborn grandchild. Or your audio books that let exhausted working parents relax after a long day of doing several jobs simultaneously.

And in our current situation, there is another level that comes to the fore: contributing to the new normal. The world has changed, and we get to decide what we go back to. Fewer flights and lower emissions mean a clearer sky and cleaner air. Biodiversity is booming. And despite being physically apart, people are connecting more than ever.

Our values have changed, and by adapting in this situation, the values of your business may have shifted too. How will you consciously keep hold of the positive effects as the world slowly gets back to normal?

Listening to your needs


In the run-up to the BASE Conference on 17 September, BASE is holding three webinars. The first one is “Government Response to Covid-19 Crisis: Measures Taken To Ensure Business Continuity.”- more details are available here.

Have you booked your ticket to BASE Conference 2020 yet? Join us online on 17 September – more details are available here.

Written by: Lucy Goodchild van Hilten

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