For over 7 years I have been helping A&E firms embrace inbound marketing, remote working and paperless business management. The way people connect, do business, find each other and make money has become digitized over the last ten years. But it took a global crisis for many firms to catch up. Now we have no choice.

In the last few weeks, most companies have learned how to setup employees to work at home, process accounting transactions remotely, and go paperless. Using paper at a time like now is not only slow and ineffective (as it has been for many years), but also unhealthy.

And customer – vendor relationships have been forced to go digital now. Restaurants had to learn how to offer their food online for takeout and delivery. Millions of retail stores have had to quickly create a digital Website to survive, and entertainers have had to rethink how they deliver their shows to avoid being forgotten to their fans. This morning I saw the entire cast of Hamilton singing together on Zoom. That would not have happened except for this crisis.

Now you have to learn how to run your business digitally. Your relationships are all online now. There are no conferences, face-to-face meetings or in some cases, construction projects. You need to get very creative about how to stay connected – here are a few ideas:

Connect with everyone you know on LinkedIn

I have long been a LinkedIn power user with now over 8,000 connections. If you are in the A&E industry and you connect with me (please do) you will be 2nd level connections to thousands of other A&E leaders and even some famous thought leaders that have graciously accepted my invitation to connect.

It has surprised me for years that some A&E leaders have avoided embracing LinkedIn. Probably because they felt it was a breeding ground for salespeople trying to get their money. I look at it as a place to learn about people and connect online in a professional setting.

Your clients are on LinkedIn and want to see your face and learn about you – especially now. You will be shocked how much you can learn about your clients by researching them online. The more you know about them, the better you can relate to them and find common interests.

If you and your team are not adequately represented on LinkedIn, it should be a top priority during the shutdown.

Invite your clients to Zoom meetings

Everyone is going through a difficult time and we all need to be here for each other. Your clients are no exception. They each have their unique challenges – some business and many personal. This is the time to show you care – not just to get their business but to be a resource to help them solve problems during this difficult time.

A few weeks ago, I started a Monday afternoon Zoom meeting and have held interactive discussions with about 45 to 50 A&E executives from across the U.S. and Canada. The group decided they wanted to meet every week to share problems and solutions, discuss how they are coping with getting SBA loans, dealing with employee challenges and managing financial difficulties and business uncertainty. We have met three times so far and the group is growing.

We’ve all been overwhelmed with all the Zoom meetings lately since we can’t do much else. But the ones where you get to connect with people and help each other in an interactive way are the most valuable ones. Maybe you can start a group for your markets and include key employees. It is a great way to add value to your industry and stay connected to your clients and staff.

Make sure your web site addresses the current crisis

Business is not usual now and our online presence needs to reflect what we are currently experiencing in the world. No one wants to see a web site dedicated to recruiting when you are forced to furlough staff – especially your employees. Consider converting your site to a few pages that discuss how you are helping your clients get through the crisis – and little else. If you are offering a special service as a result of the crisis – this is a great way to emphasize it.

Your website has a purpose and the key purpose right now is to help your firm survive. Anything else is useless and distracting. Everything on your site should add value, have the right tone and address the problems at hand.

Learn how to run successful projects digitally

Both your firm and your clients (and their clients) are new at running projects digitally and remotely. While this is hopefully a temporary situation, we should assume that the current shutdown will impede our progress for some time to come. And possibly again in the future.

This is a great time to figure out how to master the new world we live in. Your staff can be a great source of ideas and innovation. Challenge your team to look for new and better ways to manage projects, communicate with clients and ensure quality, safety and teamwork. Use any down time to document processes and look for efficiencies that will benefit you after the crisis is over.

One firm leader I talked with is focusing on helping clients manage all the state and local regulations affecting their construction projects. This is a way to add value and help clients navigate all the new ways we have to work.

Set your goal to come out on the other side of this a more automated and efficient organization. In my book, Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering and Environmental Firms I analyze nine areas where A&E firms typically lose money and how to improve them. This is a great time to get new processes and systems implemented to benefit you and your clients long into the future.

Increase your digital thought leadership

Today’s great brands have an effective online presence. Those firms that have focused on their thought leadership over the last number of years are steps ahead in terms of brand awareness, Google Searches / Site Engine Optimization (SEO) and reputation in their industries.

Look for ways to help your clients succeed by sharing your expertise in webinars, videos, podcasts, articles, courses and other digital assets. Look for thought leaders in your markets to collaborate with to get your content deeper exposure. This is a perfect time to expand your influence while people are locked up and have more time to consume content.

While the world is in crisis there are opportunities to deepen your relationships and increase your influence with clients and in the markets you serve. I believe some things will come out of this crisis much better than they were before. This is a great time to ensure that happens.

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