How Entrepreneurs Can Cope With the COVID-19 Crisis


Nicole Patel, chief people officer of global audience platform Lucid, had to react quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic to protect the company’s employees worldwide.

She, along with the rest of Lucid’s executive team, closed the company’s New Orleans headquarters along with its two main satellite offices in London and Gurgaon, India, and eight other offices in shared workspaces around the world on March 13 after running a test work-from-home day on March 11. The move followed restrictions on conference and travel to Asia in February.

“We were talking about COVID-19 and its impact on our organization what felt like a lot earlier than many companies in New Orleans and Louisiana,” Patel says. “We attribute that to us being a global company and needing to make sure we responded as quickly as New York or London.”

Lucid being ahead of the curve in office closures means that Patel has glimpsed the future for many Louisiana businesses. She learned a lot about how Louisiana entrepreneurs can protect their employees and customers while running a business during this pandemic. Here are her three vital lessons for business owners during this crisis.

Communicate With Employees and Customers Openly

The top priority for entrepreneurs should be taking care of the health and safety of employees and customers first. “You can’t be too cautious or too prepared in a situation like this,” Patel says.

Lucid employers are already heavy users of virtual communication tools, such as Slack and Zoom, and that has made the translation to 100% virtual work easier. “When we’re all doing this together, it feels like we’re more explicit with our communications. We’re more productive. And, quite frankly, we’re moving faster,” Patel says.

On an operations level, Lucid increased the frequency of its all-hands meetings from monthly to weekly. The company also set up specific Slack channels, such as wellness and working parents, to share information to help employee groups deal with the pandemic. Updates include virus exposure information near worksites and the general health of Lucid colleagues. “That level of transparency and that level of proactive communication has made our employees feel supported,” Patel says.

Foster a Culture of Remote Collaboration

Given the isolating nature of the COVID-19 crisis, Patel has focused on maintaining a company culture with an all-remote workforce. She encourages employees to keep their lunch meetings but do them virtually.

In the second week of mandatory work from home, Patel and her team implemented Donut, an app that randomly connects employees to meet virtually for coffee and donuts. The virtual meeting “could be with the CEO or someone who started last week,” she says.

Lucid still keeps workplace traditions alive, only in different formats. For example, every Friday, teams host “Wine and Wins” celebrations to acknowledge weekly victories. Now those meetings are done remotely, but with a twist. “We do it in a way that makes it fun virtually,” Patel says. “Last week, people shared a childhood picture, told a story about the picture and then shared their win for the week.”

Rethink Training and Operations

COVID-19 has disrupted business as usual, and entrepreneurs should embrace that disruption, says Patel, who worked in New York City during the September 11 terror attacks and for Lehman Brothers in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

“We changed our employee engagement programs and employee training programs to reflect the time that we are in,” Patel says. “The first day we were all working from home, we did a one-page training on how to hold an effective virtual stand-up meeting.”

The flexibility extends to Lucid’s hiring practices. The company has successfully onboarded seven employees who accepted offers before the pandemic started. “It’s a new thing that we did really quickly,” Patel says, though the company has slowed its hiring as the executive team considers Lucid’s next steps after the crisis has passed.

Lucid is re-forecasting the best- and worst-case scenarios for 2020, Patel says, and Louisiana entrepreneurs should do the same. It comes down to figuring out what the company needs now and what it can do with its existing resources as well as what its customers may want in a post-COVID-19 world.

“Don’t underestimate the strength of your people to be able to get it done even under the most unusual circumstances,” Patel says.

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